White paper calls for strengthening ASCI and for co-regulation with state agencies. Administrative authority will be self-defeating, it says
BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | October 3, 2012
The CII National Committee on Marketing has released a white paper on ‘Self-Regulation in Advertising in India: A critical Evaluation’. The paper identifies key concerns regarding misleading advertisements and analyses the issue from an independent point of view. It critically evaluates the role and responsibilities of all stakeholders – regulators, industry, activists and consumers. It has also taken into account the concerns raised by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution contemplating the need for stronger government intervention.
The white paper suggests that the solution to the problems of misleading ads is not to add one more legislation by way of an administrative authority, as proposed by DCA, to the basket of existing laws landscape. It advocates that given Advertising Standards Council of India’s (ASCI) track record in self-regulation of ad content, co-regulation between ASCI and regulators like DCA, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, etc., is an effective solution. Co-regulation will ensure that ASCI and the government work together with all stakeholders to enforce compliance currently vested with ASCI but without any punitive powers. The paper recommends that only in cases of non-compliance of the Consumer Complaints Council’s (CCC) decisions should the matter be referred to the related/parent regulatory body for further action.
The white paper highlights the effectiveness of self-regulation and how ASCI has been at the forefront of settling disputes regarding ad claims, and indecent and unfairly competitive advertising over the last two decades. The paper appreciated the role of ASCI as a model self-regulatory body stating that ASCI is committed to the cause of self-regulation in advertising and protection of the interests of consumers through first of its kind initiatives like :
However, the white paper has suggested the following areas of improvements for ASCI which are included as part of the recommendations:
The paper also recommends building awareness about ASCI’s role and code amongst the stakeholders through actively leveraging various media vehicles. ASCI should supplement communication with key stakeholders- industry, regulators, consumers and activists.
To stimulate the discussions at national level, all the corporate and industry associations should engage with the Indian advertising industry to support, defend and engage actively on the Code of Standards for Advertising in India. Specific areas where support is required are:
The paper further stresses on an incessant drive to improve the complaints handling system with an emphasis on continuous review and improvements to the system. This will revitalize ASCI as a more efficient and transparent Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO).
Adi Godrej, President, CII, summing up the issue, said, “This comprehensive and independent white paper further reinforces that self-regulation in advertising works across the globe in controlling misleading advertising, as seen in over 70 countries already. In India too, we believe in the efficacy of ASCI to regulate misleading advertising and, more importantly, its ability for speedy redressal. We urge the Department of Consumer Affairs to reconsider its recent proposal to set up a parallel administrative authority which we strongly feel will delay the process of consumer redressal and be counter-productive to its intent. Instead, we request them to consider partnering with and strengthening the current mechanism of self-regulation through ASCI further, a win-win for consumers, industry and the government.”
CII recommendations in a nutshell: