Government releases draft guidelines on advertising; to treat non-legible disclaimers as misleading ads

Celebrity endorsements through personal tweets, blogs, posts and other testimonials should be based on adequate information about or experience with the product or service being endorsed, according to the first draft of the advertising code releas...

New Delhi: Celebrity endorsements through personal tweets, blogs, posts and other testimonials should be based on adequate information about or experience with the product or service being endorsed, according to the first draft of the advertising code released by the government. Disclaimers in small font size in advertisements and comparative advertising that is not factual will be treated as misleading and can be penalised, according to the guidelines prepared by the consumer affairs ministry and put out in the public domain for comments from stakeholders.

“While the proposed guidelines touch upon imitation advertising, comparative advertising, bait advertising, surrogate advertising, puffery in advertising, it also includes brand endorsers. Advertisers and their agencies will now have to be more watchful of violations. Abiding by the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) code was voluntary. These guidelines now being part of the CPA (Consumer Protection Act), make them enforceable,” said Lloyd Mathias, former Asia marketing head of HP Inc.

The guidelines need to be more specific about new aspects of promotions on social media such as influencer marketing. “Do these guidelines cover influencer marketing, which has recently exploded, remains to be seen,” said Kapil Arora, co-chairman of 82.5 Communications. “Just about anything that’s been written down in this document can be questioned. And everything can be cleverly misinterpreted,” said Prathap Suthan, managing partner at Bang In the Middle.


The advertising code was drafted by the Central Consumer Protection Authority under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and is aimed at curbing unfair trade practices such as misleading claims made by advertisers. It holds manufacturers, service providers, advertising agencies as well as brand endorsers accountable for any misleading claims. Once notified, these guidelines will cover “all advertising and marketing communications regardless of form, format or medium.”

A recent survey by LocalCircles, a consumer community platform, found that consumers want advertisements to be regulated by a government body instead of a self-regulatory industry body. Around 48 percent of the participants in the survey had said they have low trust in the claims made in ad campaigns and 23 percent said they have zero trust in campaigns. Around 75 percent consumers said they have come across celebrity ads which were misleading and 80% consumers said ads should be regulated by a Government body instead of an industry body like ASCI which does not have penal powers, according to the survey.
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