A District Magistrate Court in Delhi has ruled that the Advertising Standards Council of India‚Äôs (ASCI) decisions are applicable to members and non-members alike.
The judgment comes close on the heels of the Consumer Protection Act passed in Parliament recently, recognising ASCI‚Äôs status as self-regulatory industry body.
Until now, a large number of advertisers avoided becoming members of ASCI because of the notion that they would not have to abide by the council‚Äôs decisions.
The Tis Hazari district court, in the ‚ÄėPrimordial Systems P. Ltd. v. the Advertising Standards Council of India‚Äô case, ruled in favour of the advertising self-regulatory body.
The complainant advertiser (Primordial Systems) had argued that as it was not a member of ASCI, the self-regulation code laid down by the council was not applicable to it and that ASCI had no jurisdiction on the advertiser.
The court said ASCI had the power to, after following due process, provide recommendations to the advertiser to modify or remove an advertisement containing claims that are considered as misleading by the ASCI‚Äôs independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC).
The court said though the complainant is not a member of ASCI, it is into the activity of advertising for which the council has made a self-regulation code and it entertains complaints for any breach.
So if ASCI makes a recommendation and based on it, an advertising agency or a television channel refuses to air an advertisement of the complainant, they would be entitled to do so. The court found no merit in the argument of the complainant that ASCI has jurisdiction over it as it is a non-member.
The court said ASCI had been constituted as a self-regulatory body for the purpose of advertisements and the code drafted and changed from time to time by ASCI had been given a statutory flavour.
The Supreme Court of India has already held that ASCI looks into specific complaints regarding violation of programme code and hence prima facie it cannot be said that complaints are entertained without following due process.
In view of the matter, the court settled that ASCI had the power to regulate advertisements as per laid down guidelines.
D.¬†Shivakumar,¬†Chairman (ASCI), said, ‚ÄúIt is a very significant judgement as it clarifies that all advertisers come under the purview of ASCI‚Äôs guidelines. It sends a clear message to the entire industry that investing in honest advertising is effective as dishonest advertising is not going to work. Clearly, for the consumers, it is a big win as all the industry members, whether they are part of ASCI or not, can no longer deceive them with misleading advertising.‚ÄĚ
The Consumer Protection Act seeks to penalise misleading ads placed on virtually any medium, including television, radio, print, outdoor ads, e-commerce, direct selling and telemarketing.