Notices issued to top alco-bev players for surrogate ads during World Cup: Nidhi Khare of CCPA

Speaking to, Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA, and Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, stated that the regulatory body has taken cognisance of the alco-bev majors that have been coming up with surrogate ads and has thus issued notices to the prominent players who manufacture the products

Shreya Negi
New Update
Notices issued to top alco-bev players for surrogate ads during World Cup: Nidhi Khare of CCPA

Nidhi Khare

Capitalising on the widespread viewership over the past month during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, numerous alcoholic beverage giants not only sponsored the tournament but also launched impactful ad campaigns.

Taking into account the many alco-bev brands which have presumably come up with surrogate ads in and around the World Cup 2023 and whether or not were they found at fault, Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner, CCPA, and Special Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, stated that the ministry has already taken action by issuing notices to all the prominent manufacturers of the alcobev products and that the cases are still going on.

“While we have to make the industry aware of its role and how the consumers’ rights should be protected and respected, it is also our role to ensure that this doesn’t come at the cost of any industry. Therefore, what is necessary is for the industry, collectively, to adopt self-regulation and become more respectful towards consumers' rights. In cases where self-regulation falls short, the regulatory body will step in to prevent unfair trade practices or false advertisements, ensuring a more satisfying consumer experience," she said.

While it was Bira91, Seagram’s Royal Stag and Jacob's Creek which partnered directly with the Indian Cricket Council, brands such as Pernod Ricard India, Kingfisher, and Diageo decided to come aboard as sponsors on Disney Star.

Surrogate advertising is legally forbidden; however, companies are allowed to promote brand extensions. This means an alcohol brand can diversify into other categories and advertise those products, as long as the ads don't reference the alcohol category. Additionally, the promoted variant must meet specific criteria regarding the scale and size of operations, and cannot merely serve as a superficial front.

Khare also pointed out that the Ministry has also received complaints from consumers against brands making ‘exaggerated advertisements’ that are untruthful and therefore such players will have to do the explaining.

In fact, in her views, everyone, be it the brand or influencer, should and must realise that they have to offer honest and truthful disclosures about ingredients, the process and what they are actually selling in the garb of exaggerated advertisements.

“Taking cognisance of this, we have also urged the industry to voluntarily take the ‘Safety pledge’ under which the Ministry has asked the industry to offer only products which are safe to the consumer,” she said.

Additionally, the Ministry has also set up a new committee on ‘greenwashing in ads’ a week back and the same is chaired by Khare. That being said, while the issue has become quite a pertinent one, internationally, the committee has been engaging with industry associations at length via its meetings to ensure that discussions happen at length with multiple industry associations at all levels.

Pointing out that the next meeting is likely to happen in a fortnight’s time, Khare asserted that India is not behind the global markets when it comes to taking cognisance and dealing with the pressing issue.

In fact, a couple of days back, the Advertising Standards Council of India also came up with a proposal on the draft guidelines to curb greenwashing in environmental advertising claims and opened room for public feedback till the end of this year.

Sharing the bigger picture and commenting on how the numbers of complaints received by the Consumer Affairs Ministry via the National Consumer Helpline have evolved in the past couple of years, Khare pointed out that the number of complaints registered on the portal was gone up significantly from 60,000 a month in the first six months to 1,25,000 a month today. The ministry is also examining similar cases and conducting a preliminary enquiry to form a class action so as to prevent people from unnecessarily making the judicial system burdensome.

“As of today, there would be about 200 odd cases which have been initiated for class action. Of this, nearly 70 cases have already been closed, meaning that the final order has been passed and in cases where penalties had been imposed, the penalties have been collected. Similarly, in the cases where orders were given to discontinue the advertisements on grounds of being misleading or the player indulging in unfair trade practices, then that order has also been complied with,” she said.

That being said, she also emphasised that the Ministry in the past couple of years has been striving to improve the registration of complaints and their redressals and if required, resolving many of the consumer complaints at the pre-litigation stage itself.

Throwing light on some of the sectors against which the Ministry has been receiving a significant number of complaints, Kharte attributed that while the e-commerce sector continues to account for 40% of the total complaints received by the Ministry, complaints for other sectors such as insurance, banking, housing, ed tech, consumer durables, etc. also continue to add to the list.

Upon being questioned as to what has led to the rise in the number of complaints in recent times, she replied that the case has been such because initially the consumers weren’t aware of what the NCH numbers were and hence didn’t know where they could write to in cases of small or petty complaints for refunds, replacement, etc. but today, the technical know-how has been improved.

In her view, things have become much more accessible today as the helpline has been connected through multimedia channels allowing consumers to raise their complaints via WhatsApp or email alongside direct calls.

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