The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released a set of 10 guidelines and principles for use of awards or rankings in advertisements with effect from 1 February 2020.
The guidelines come in the wake of the often superior, false, or misleading claims made by some advertisers in the advertising material they put out in media for their products and services based on awards and rankings they have received. Consumers are more often than not led into believing that an award or ranking given to a “brand, product, institute, or service” makes it “superior and /or more authentic”, ASCI said.
It may be recalled how the Council in the month of October 2019 had taken suo motocognisance and carried out investigations against 344 advertisements of which 80 were withdrawn by the respective advertisers following stringent warning by the Council.
The guidelines will also help advertisers appreciate the rigour and test of authenticity necessary for substantiation of claims made in the advertising so that their claims pass muster with ASCI’s independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC).
The guidelines deal with the issue comprehensively: One of the guidelines says how advertisements that refer to awards/rankings are now expected to clearly show the name of the organisation gave the award/ranking and the month and year in which the award/ranking was conferred. Another guideline lays down that due consent of the person, institution, or organisation conferring the award/ranking needs to be obtained and produced in writing before the material is used in the advertisement.
The Chairman of ASCI, Rohit Gupta, said, “Among several important initiatives planned for 2020, our very first announcement for the year is this Guideline for advertisers making superiority claims referring to the awards or rankings they receive. Claims such as ranking 1st 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 recognised and trustworthy, whereas in some cases this may not be true. The guidelines are a step towards ensuring that advertisers are cognisant of the serious impact of deceptive advertising and hence make responsible claims when referring to awards and rankings in their advertisements.”
Brands, services, and products also expected to ensure that the accrediting bodies “disseminating or presenting awards or rankings” are “authentic and credible”.
The new guidelines apply across the board to all advertisers and, in particular, apply stringently to healthcare and education where such claims of superiority or leadership are often made widely. In healthcare, misleading claims about rankings, awards, and quality benchmarks falsely lure patients in preferring one service provider over another, often resulting in avoidable medical disasters, ASCI observed.In education, parents and students often become gullible victims of often inflated awards/ranking claims made by institutes and organisations. It’s children’s education at stake and by extension the whole future of a generation. The ASCI guidelines now seek to address this issue in a more definitive manner