In the first quarter of 2020, the Ministry of AYUSH asked the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to identify advertisements that violated its advisory dated 1 April 2020. ASCI, on its part, escalated 237 objectionable ads to the Ministry of AYUSH. While 164 ads complied and modified the untrue claims, 73 Covid-related ads needed further investigation and action by the Ministry due to non-compliance, ASCI found.
In addition to this, ASCI picked up advertisements of several other categories such as paints, apparel, detergents, skincare, ACs, fans, water purifiers, plywood and laminates, supplements and food- all promising Covid-related benefits. In all, 332 Covid-related ads were picked up by ASCI through consumer complaints as well as its own monitoring, yet only 12 of these ads were actually able to substantiate the claims they made.
Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI, said, “In a period where consumer vulnerabilities were at an all-time high, many brands took unfair advantage of this, and tried to peddle their wares without establishing any robust evidence of their actual utility against the SARS Cov-2 virus. ASCI has worked hard to weed out such advertisements by using very stringent standards of evidence. Brands that offer proven benefits to consumers have a genuine role in the pandemic but unfortunately, most of the Covid-related advertising fell woefully short. Most advertisers were unable to prove that the products actually worked to help consumers in a real way as claimed in the ads.”
Besides Covid complaints, the ASCI Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) also processed 1406 complaints in the education sector, 285 complaints against food and beverage advertisements and 147 complaints related to personal care. In addition, 364 advertisements were found to be, prima facie, in violation of The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act.