Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)
Health-Related Decisions and Recommendations
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a voluntary, self-regulatory organization for India's advertising industry. The council and its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) evaluate complaints from consumers and industry which assert that advertisements are false, misleading, indecent, illegal, leading to unsafe practices, and/or or unfair to competition, and therefore violate the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising. The code, which applies to advertising agencies as well as the media, includes these aims:
- To ensure the truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements.
- To ensure that advertisements are not offensive to generally accepted standards of public decency.
- To safeguard against the indiscriminate use of advertising for the promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous to society or to individuals to a degree or of a type which is unacceptable to society at large.
- To ensure that advertisements observe fairness in competition so that the consumer's need to be informed on choices in the market-place and the canons of generally accepted competitive behavior in business are both served.
In May 2014, the ASCI announced that its average complaint-processing time was 12 days, down from 45 days in 2012, even though the rate of complaints had increased more than ten-fold. The announcement also mentioned that the council's National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS) had begun tracking the ads against which complaints have been upheld and found that more than 90% of them did not reappear or were appropriately modified. The council also began reporting persistent non-compliant ads to regulatory authorities such as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the Medical Council of India (MCI), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
Summaries of the complaints the ASCI has upheld are now issued in monthly press releases posted to the ASCI Web site. So far, more than 2,000 complaints have been upheld in the areas of health, health care, nutrition, cosmetics, alleged sex aids, and supernatural claims. To make these easier to find, I have created monthly pages that list only them.
How to Complain
- Residents of India should use the online complaint form. This form requires an address and mobile phone number, so it cannot be used by non-residents.
- Non-residents should send the other information requested in the online form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Complaint apps for mobile phones can be obtained from Google Play and the App Store.
This article was revised on February 6, 2017.