The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Tuesday came out with an "advisory" on COVID-19-related messaging on the do's and dont's to be followed by brands as part of steps to check misleading claims.
The self-regulatory body for the advertising industry said there has been a proliferation of advertisements with misleading message claims during the pandemic.
"We want products and advertisements to stick to claims and promises that are well backed by adequate substantiation. The advisory to advertisers is meant to safeguard consumers as well as to ensure the highest standards for advertising," ASCI's secretary general Manisha Kapoor said.
She said the four-point advisory has been after consultations with advertisers, as well as with technical experts in different fields such as biochemistry, ayurveda, food and nutrition.
She further added that the pandemic cannot be a platform to mislead consumers.
The advisory asks advertisers of Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy products and services to abide by AYUSH Ministry order of April 1 on Coronavirus advertising, according to a statement. It also asks advertisers to avoid claiming destruction or removal of any virus other than coronavirus and if they indeed wish to do so, to include a disclaimer saying the same is not applicable to COVID-19.
Advertisers are advised to be particularly careful whilst making, directly or indirectly, claims to reduce the chances of becoming infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) or gain immunity against it, the advisory states.
Products which are not internally consumed or applied to bodies, that is, not requiring license under the Drug and Cosmetic Act, should be particularly cautious while making claims regarding prevention of, immunity against or treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), it added.
Following the April 1 order, where the AYUSH ministry had sought help from the ASCI, the body said it has processed 250 advertisements and reported 233 from the healthcare sector to the ministry.
Of these, 162 were successfully resolved as the advertisers either withdrew the advertisements or modified them. The remaining 71 were taken up by the ministry for appropriate action, it said.