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ASCI strengthens consumer complaints process

MUMBAI:  The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has introduced an ‘Independent Review Process’, which will facilitate an independent mechanism to review the recommendations made by Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) if either the advertiser or the complainant is dissatisfied with such recommendations.

The new Independent Review Process will have a chairman, who will be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court/High Court, assisted by the Secretary General/Chief Complaints Officer, along with the chairman or co-chairman who was involved in the CCC recommendation and a technical expert, where necessary. Currently, Justice Mukul Mudgal (Retd. Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana, High Court) has been appointed by the self-regulatory organisation as the chairman for all Independent Review Process cases henceforth.

ASCI said that it has been rapidly progressing on various initiatives for upholding self-regulation in advertising, safeguarding consumers’ interest and partnering with various government bodies in restraining misleading advertisements. This has led to a substantial increase in ASCI’s responsibilities and work load. In this background, ASCI appoints Dr. CBS Venkataramana, IAS (Retd.), as the Chief Complaints Officer (CCO), who will play a vital role in driving efficient complaint redressal and 360 degree stakeholder interactions. Serving as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer for about 33 years, Dr. Venkataramana has undertaken several important assignments at the state government and central government level.

In his role as the CCO, Dr. Venkataramana will be responsible for managing complaint lodging, investigation, redressal and follow up processes for effective compliance of ASCI codes.

ASCI chairman Srinivasan K. Swamy said, “ASCI is constantly evolving and seeking effective measures to enable self-regulation in advertising and compliance to ASCI codes. The inclusion of the Independent Review Process mechanism creates transparency for both advertiser and complainant in further facilitating fair judgement of complaints. Further, the appointment of Dr. Venkataramana will go a long way in ensuring speedier and more effective complaint redressal process.”

Further details on Independent Review Process:

The Independent Review Process is applicable where the CCC recommendations are made after considering the response received from the advertiser and on fulfilling the following conditions by the party seeking review:

  1. A written application, in the prescribed form, (available on the website www.ascionline.org) has to be submitted within 10 business days of the receipt of CCC recommendations.
  2. The application is accompanied by a non-refundable prescribed Fee plus applicable taxes.
  3. The Parties will be at liberty to provide additional information/material not submitted earlier together with the application as per (a) above. Additional information/material submitted by the complainant seeking a review will be sent to the advertiser who shall send his response to the ASCI secretariat in 5 business days from the date of receipt of such additional information/material.
  4. The advertiser seeking review confirms suspension of the offending advertisement, pending the Independent Review Process recommendations.
  5. By submitting the Independent Review Process application, it is understood that the advertiser shall accept and comply with the recommendations made by the chairman of the Independent Review Process.

The Independent Review Process meeting will be convened once in a Fortnight/Month. Both the complainant and the advertiser will be intimated as to the date, time and venue of the meeting at least 5 business days prior to the date of the meeting.

Proceedings under the Independent Review Process are not adversarial or adjudicatory in nature and hence parties may be represented in the meeting by their company officials only.

The chairman of the Independent Review Process, after hearing both parties, will give his/her recommendations within two business days thereafter. In case, additional information or clarification is required from either party or the technical expert, the chairman may, as per his/her discretion, continue the hearing on another convenient date.

In the event either of the parties do not wish a personal hearing, the chairman of the  Independent Review Process may complete the review based on the additional information/material submitted and his/her findings would be conveyed over email to both the parties within a period of two business days.

Independent Review Process shall not be applicable in case of ex-parte CCC recommendations.