Centre issues stern warning against surrogate ads seen as harming consumers

Mumbai, Feb 22 (IANS) The Department of Consumer Affairs in collaboration with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) conducted a stakeholder consultation to collectively address the malaise of surrogate advertisements that promote products in restricted categories, such as alcohol.

Such ads undermine consumer rights and pose a potential danger to public health.

Secretary in the Department of Consumer Affairs, Rohit Kumar Singh, said that surrogate advertisements that promote products in restricted categories undermine consumer rights and can have serious implications.

There is a pressing need to restrict the proliferation of surrogate ads across industries. If respective prohibited industries fail to adhere to this guideline and comply with existing laws, more stringent actions will be implemented.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders as we navigate through this evolving issue. The Department of Consumer Affairs reaffirmed its stance with utmost clarity that any continued involvement in surrogate advertising will not be condoned. It was underscored that stringent measures will be implemented to address any instances of non-compliance, with the firm commitment to take decisive actions against those found in violation,” Singh said.

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The consultation underscored the key discussion points as follows:

* There should be a clear distinction between the brand extension and the restricted product or service being advertised

* The story or visual of the advertisement must depict only the product being advertised, and not the prohibited product in any form

* The ad must not make any direct or indirect reference to prohibited products

* The ad must not contain any nuances or phrases promoting prohibited products

* The ad must not use colour, layout or presentations associated with the prohibited products

* The ad must not use situations typical for promotion of prohibited products when advertising the other products

The consultation also convened the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements of Misleading Advertisements in 2022, and a precise definition of surrogate advertisement was introduced for an array of industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and experts to deliberate on effective strategies to deal with surrogate advertising.

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The key discussions revolved around enhancing transparency, strengthening enforcement mechanisms, and promoting responsible advertising practices.

The consultation engaged key stakeholders from government bodies, including the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Trademark Authority, who shared their views on how to regulate such surrogate advertisements.

–IANS

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