ASCI cracks down on false claims in education ads

The education sector saw a sharp rise in institutes making misleading and false claims in their ad

MUMBAI: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has cracked down on advertisements from the education sector which made misleading and false claims. During August and September, the regulatory body noticed a sharp rise in advertisements fielded by educational institutes which tried to pass off fake claims and upheld complaints against 101 such ads.   

Claims such as top of their field, ranking no.1, 100 per cent job placements, best institute, 100 per cent passing rate, were the most used red flag terms that violated ASCI’s code. One online learning app claimed to be the best and pioneer of live online classes. Many educational institutions didn’t have substantial data and surveys to support the claims they were making and the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI recommended that these advertisements be declared misleading.

In the health sector, with advertisers are trying to leverage consumers’ fears and insecurities amid the Covid2019 pandemic, ASCI cracked the whip on 59 ads which falsely claimed to cure or prevent the infection. Working together and synergizing efforts with the ministry of AYUSH, ASCI has constantly been working towards eliminating such false claims for consumer protection.

The self-regulatory body also looked into non-healthcare advertisements, wherein a company contended that their paint protected home owners from germs, a clothing company claimed to kill 99 per cent germs, while another professed their fabric was anti-Corona. There was even an instance of a sweet confectioner claiming their sweets could combat COVID 19 and improve the immune system. There was a grocery chain that said they would refund their full grocery bill if their customer tested positive for Covid2019 within 24 hours of shopping at their store. These advertisers were told to modify such claims or withdraw their advertisements.

There were some interesting cases flagged in the finance and investment sector too. ASCI received a unique direct complaint from a consumer regarding a campaign TVC run by a leading loan company. The TVC had people covering their mouth only till their nose with the mask. The CCC concluded that such advertisements misuse the Covid2019 situation and upheld the complaint.

ASCI also upheld misleading ad claims made on various digital platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Many such claims were taken up by ASCI suo motu.

Overall, ASCI looked into complaints against 317 advertisements during August-September period, of these 64 were promptly withdrawn by advertisers on the council’s intervention. Of the remaining 253, complaints against 221 advertisements were upheld.

ASCI secretary general  Manisha Kapoor said: “ASCI, is now in its 35th year since inception. COVID-19 related claims as well as misleading education claims continued to dominate the kind of complaints we received at ASCI during this period. The independent consumer complaints council (CCC), which comprises members of civil society as well as industry, jointly view such advertisements and adjudicate. The CCC goes deep into understanding the underlying complaint and the advertiser response and justification before an opinion is given. ASCI’s only goal is to promote responsible advertising which safeguards consumers.”

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