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ASCI releases guidelines on award referencing in ads

Awards and rankings claimed in advertising to be only from credible and independent bodies.

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MUMBAI: The Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI) has introduced guidelines for usage of awards/rankings in advertisements effective 1 February 2020.

According to a press release, “Consumers are sometimes misled into believing that an award or ranking which is given to a brand, product, institute or service makes it superior and /or more authentic.”

To ensure that their claims are not misleading, the guidelines will lend assistance to advertisers for the appropriate usage of reference to awards or rankings in advertising, the release said.

It will also assist the advertiser to understand the rigour required for claim substantiation and pitfalls to avoid so that their claims pass the muster with ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC).

The council urged brands and services to ensure that the accrediting bodies involved in disseminating or presenting awards or rankings are authentic and credible to validate their claims in advertisements.

Moreover, the guidelines are also applicable to all advertisers and would particularly be relevant for healthcare services and the educational sector which tends to use such superiority or leadership claims.

In this regard, ASCI chairman Rohit Gupta said, “Claims such as ranking first in the state or in India, receiving an award for being the most trusted or award of excellence, listed in some book of world records etc. makes consumers believe that the product/service is recognized and trustworthy, whereas in some cases this may not be true.”

He added, “The guidelines are a step towards ensuring that advertisers are cognizant of the serious impact of deceptive advertising and hence make responsible claims when referring to awards and rankings in their advertisements.”

The council said, prospective students and parents easily fall prey to awards/ranking claims by institutes and coaching classes as they rely blindly on such claims. It added that a wrong choice directly impacts the quality of education and the future of children and has a financial implication.

Citing an example of the health services sector, the council said, misleading claims about rankings and awards lure patients in choosing the service provider and could hamper patient health, quality of care received and result in financial losses.

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