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Govt warns industry bodies to ensure compliance with guidelines on surrogate and misleading ads

If one is seen not complying with the guidelines around misleading ads, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) would take stern action against the violators, the government said

Due to concerns pertaining to surrogate and misleading advertising on television and social media platforms, the government on Wednesday directed industry bodies CII, FICCI, ASCI, ASSOCHAM, and all others related to advertising and broadcasting to ensure compliance with the existing guidelines.

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The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) would take stern action against the violators, the government said.

The guidelines for the prevention of misleading advertisement ban surrogate advertisement or indirect advertisement of goods or services whose advertising is otherwise prohibited or restricted by law.

The consumer affairs ministry said, "It has been noticed that these guidelines are not being strictly complied with by the concerned entities and the prohibited goods are still being advertised through surrogate goods and services." It said that many instances of such surrogate advertisements were noticed during the recent sports events that were televised globally.

"It has also been observed that many alcoholic spirits and beverages are being advertised under the garb of music CDs, club soda and packaged drinking water, whereas chewing tobacco and gutkha has taken the veil of fennel and cardamom." Moreover, many such brands are employing major celebrities that accentuate the negative impact on the impressionable youth, among others. The ministry also observed several instances of direct advertising of alcoholic beverages on social media platforms, it added.

Concerned over this, the ministry has issued a directive to the Advertising Association of India, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, News Broadcasters and Digital Association, Advertising Standards Council of India, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry, ASSOCHAM, International Spirits and Wines Association of India, and Indian Society of Advertisers.

These associations and industry bodies have been asked to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines for the prevention of misleading advertisements and endorsement of misleading advertisements, especially the provisions pertaining to surrogate advertisements.

The ministry also cautioned the advertisers' associations that failure to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines by the concerned parties would lead to the CCPA taking suitable stern action against the violators.

Pertinently, the guidelines are applicable to a manufacturer, service provider or trader whose goods, product or service are the subjects of an advertisement, or to an advertising agency or endorser whose service is availed for the promotion of such goods, product or service regardless of the form, format or medium of the advertisement.

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