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ASCI issues ‘COVID-19 claims’ advisory to advertisers

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ASCI issues ‘COVID-19 claims’ advisory to advertisers


Since March 2020, we have seen a plethora of products from the anti-corona mattresses and tulsi drops to a furniture ply to apparel claiming it could protect people from coronavirus.

ASCI issues ‘COVID-19 claims’ advisory to advertisers
Since March 2020, from the time that COVID-19 has gripped the country, we have seen a plethora of products from the anti-corona mattresses and tulsi drops to a furniture ply to apparel claiming it could protect people from coronavirus.
Many of these were taken note of by the advertising self-regulatory body Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) as they were flagged off by users on ASCI’s official social media handles, WhatsApp and Website.
But now, ASCI has announced COVID-19 claims guidelines to advertisers especially pertaining to COVID-19. This will work as an advisory for advertisers and not the ASCI code.
ASCI’s CCC will, as with any other claim, continue to process the complaint and consider claim support data for any COVID-19 or any other virus-related claim which is capable of objective substantiation.
  1. Advertisers of Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy products and services are advised to abide by the Order of Ministry of AYUSH dated April 1, 2020 on Coronavirus ( COVID-19) advertisements. During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic it is advised that advertisements avoid claiming destruction or removal of any virus other than Coronavirus in order not to violate the provision of ASCI code’s clauses 1.4.
  2. “Advertisements shall neither distort facts nor mislead consumers by means of implications and omissions….” And 1.5 “Advertisements shall not be so framed as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience and knowledge…..” In case Advertisers choose to claim removal of any other virus in their advertisement they should include a disclaimer such as “Claim not applicable to Coronavirus (Covid 19)” or similar with disclaimer size and position as per the Disclaimer Guideline of ASCI.
  3. 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. Advertisers should be able to substantiate claims of immunity against or treatment for Coronavirus (Covid 19) supported by either technical support recognised or approved by health authorities such as WHO, ICMR, MoHFW, AYUSH, DCGI,CDC (USA), similar stature health organisation or by well recognised medical/technical literature or by regulatory approved clinical research conducted by a recognised medical institute/laboratory.
  4. Products which are not internally consumed or applied to bodies, i.e. not requiring license under the Drug & Cosmetic Act, should be particularly cautious in making any claims regarding prevention of, immunity against or treatment for Coronavirus (Covid 19) unless they have claim support data as required per clause 3 above.
  5. Speaking on this, Manisha Kapoor, General Secretary of ASCI said that through this advisory, ASCI is trying to make the advertisers more mindful when they make Covid related claims. “ASCI is about self-regulation and regularly had 90 percent of the advertisers that comply with ASCI, we also do our own monitoring to find out whether our rulings are complied with. However in the case of non-compliance, we have escalated it to the concerned Ministry,” says Kapoor.
    In the current situation, certain categories including hygiene and health have grown and coming up with innovations. Advertisers are coming up with unique selling propositions centered on protection against the virus and immunity.
    ASCI says that these innovations are welcome and need of the hour but these claims demand robust support data.
    “You can make a claim, so long as you are able to back it. If there is some technology or some innovation that is useful in the current pandemic, prove it to us and we are fine for you to air it. Consumers are looking for solutions and brands that are able to do so truthfully will have a place in the market,” adds Kapoor.
    Apart from ads on TV, newspapers, hoardings, radio, etc. ASCI is working on making influencer marketing more accountable as well. “I agree there is a lot of grey area but we are working on it, “ says Kapoor.
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