India to formulate advertising code

NEW DELHI: The ministry of consumer affairs is preparing a code of conduct for advertisers, setting guidelines for brands and advertising agencies for the first time in India. The move is aimed at curbing unfair trade practices such as misleading claims made by advertisers.

“An advertising code is a necessity, especially at a time like this when several advertisers are claiming to have developed a cure for Covid-19,” said an official working on the initiative.

Recently, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a voluntary self-regulatory organisation found 50 ad campaigns by ayurveda and homoeopathic drug makers offering a cure for Covid-19 in April alone.

While the council flagged these misleading claims to the union government for action, it does not have the power to take any action against these advertisers on its own.

The proposed advertising code will also lay out penalties for advertisers, their agencies and publishers in case of misleading advertising and false claims.

The advertising code will be drafted by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 that seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.

A recent survey by Local Circle, a consumer community platform, found that consumers want advertisements to be regulated by a government body instead of a self-regulatory industry body. Only 28 percent of the participants in the survey said they trust the claims made in ad campaigns.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Ayush barred Patanjali Ayurveda from advertising Coronil, a drug which Patanjali claimed cures Covid-19, but hasn’t been approved by the ministry or the drug regulator, citing the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

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“Several other misleading ads may not fall under this provision and hence and advertising code is needed,” said the official.



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