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ASCI processes over 1,000 complaints against misleading ads on behalf of DoCA

MUMBAI: The Advertising Standards Council of India ( ASCI) has processed over 1,000 complaints against misleading advertising on behalf of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA).

The DoCA had last year appointed the ASCI to monitor web portal, GAMA (Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements), which was launched on 18 March 2015.

All GAMA complaints have been processed by the ASCI. The majority of these complaints came from individual consumers as well as few consumer organisations like the Consumer Education & Research Centre (CERC).

The portal received complaints against advertisements of products and services from almost all sectors (telecom, banking, consumer durables, etc. and emerging sectors like e-commerce) across a range of advertising media (TV, print, websites, other digital mediums, etc.).

Some of the well-known brands’ advertisements that were complained against were processed by the ASCI via GAMA portal and the complaints were upheld by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC). In all those cases, the advertisers either withdrew the advertisements or modified them as appropriate within the stipulated period and in compliance with CCC decisions.

Commenting on the success of GAMA portal, the Department of Consumer Affairs secretary C Viswanath said, “The problem of misleading advertisements is extensive and needs immediate attention. Launch of the GAMA portal is helping us to accomplish the vision we have towards protecting consumers’ interest. The need for government and self-regulatory bodies like ASCI to work together to provide effective and timely grievance redressal to consumers is key to tackle the issue. This model successfully demonstrates more governance and less government.”

Speaking on behalf of ASCI, ASCI chairman Benoy Roychowdhury added, “The ASCI was entrusted with the responsibility of GAMA complaints processing. I am very happy that ASCI has been able to speedily address all 1,000+ complaints received till date. This co-regulation initiative between government and ASCI has further enhanced effectiveness of protecting consumers from advertisements that could be making misleading, false or unsubstantiated claims. We wish GAMA, entering its second year, greater success.”

The complaints of misleading advertisements received on GAMA portal are handled in a three-tier system, i.e. first complaints are processed by ASCI. The second level of escalation in case of non-compliance to a sub-committee headed by the joint secretary DoCA, under Inter Ministerial Monitoring Committee (IMMC) and, in the end, the concerned regulator empowered by law to take action in case of persistent offenders.