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Advertisements in the frame of law

Advertisements in the frame of law


Advertisement of various products have the same effect as films or television.  These advertisements are shown to people numerous times.  So, they have more impact on people than cinema.  Thus, it is essential to regulate the content of ads for a wider social benefit.  The Government has therefore prepared a frame for it.  Below is the information of some such laws.

This is the last article from the article series ‘the sixty-fifth art’.  We discussed a lot of aspects of advertisements in the previous year.  We got information in the first article about the definition of advertisement, purpose, necessity and history of advertisement. 

The next article described the communication method and various types of advertisements.  In the following article, we saw the journey of a customer from the first time buyer to a loyal customer.  We also discussed customer relationships.  We understood all the contributors to the making of an advertisement.  The fourth article described the making of the same ad using various moods, like fear, pride, etc.  The next article described many interesting examples of how the content is made to match the service or product even if they have nothing in common, and this is because of the cut-throat competition in this field.        

We also saw some relevant and composite advertisements in the sixth article, along with some other examples of content and product unrelated advertisements.  In the seventh article, we saw the useful examples of children’s participation in ads.  We also saw how it was irrelevant for children to be included in the advertisements.  The next two articles described the effect of ads on small children. With examples, we saw how the code of conduct of morality in advertising is violated and how the advertisers violate code of conduct.    

Now, this is the last article!

Even if customer awareness is the primary purpose of an advertisement, it is seen that wrong information is conveyed to convince the customer to buy the said products through comparison or giving false information or half information.  This article explains about the restrictions the Government has imposed for such types of advertisements and what legal action the Government can take against it if they are violated, also what are the actions that the customer can take on such types of advertisements.

There is no law at present to control the advertisements.  The Indian advertisers follow the code of conduct voluntarily set by a non-Government body – Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI).  The advertiser must also responsibly observe that he is not violating any local or national law.  The non-Government body – ASCI, was formed voluntarily in 1985 with the purpose that advertisers will make advertisements responsibly and so that the customers have trust in ads.  

ASCI has the following objectives:

  1. Ensure the truth and honesty of the claims the advertiser is making through their advertisements.
  2. Ensure that the advertisements do not infringe social decency.
  3. Protect the customer from products or things or services that are harmful to the person or society.  
  4. Ensure that the advertiser will observe the General Code of Conduct of business people when he is giving information about things/services available in the market.   

There are two subsections of ASCI.  They are: Board of Governors and Consumer Complaints Council).

The Board of Governors has one member from four departments from the advertising industry.

  1. Advertiser
  2. Advertising agency
  3. Media (owners of newspapers, television, radio etc.)
  4. Other related (e.g. external advertisers, public relations, market research, management education schools etc.)

ASCI has prepared a code of conduct for advertisements published in India.  This code of conduct is called ‘A.S.C.I.’. This code applies to advertisers, producers of advertisements and publishers of advertisements.  This code applies to advertisements in India listened to (radio) and read (newspapers, magazines, flex and electronic boards on roads and other places).  If an ad has been produced abroad, but it is aimed at Indian consumers, or if the Indian public is watching it on a large scale, then this code is also applicable for such advertisements.  The ‘ASCI’ code is non-Government, still many laws about Indian advertisements and institutions from the advertising field have approved it.  However, ‘ASCI code’ is not made to compete with other advertising related local and national provisions in law and its implementation.  This code complements the other regulations regarding advertisements; this code is not meant to be used in place of that.  

In connection with the objectives of Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) and as per the code, some restrictions have been imposed on advertisers, advertisement producers and their publishers.  These restrictions must be followed by them voluntarily.  Some of the important restrictions are as follows:

  1. Advertisements for children
    1. The advertisers should not induce the children to go and collect the coupons, covers, labels in unknown places or from strange people.
    2. Do not show tricks, which are dangerous, and which children will want to copy. 
    3. Do not show children handling sharp knives, guns, electrical equipment.  Wrong handling of these things may cause injury to children.
    4. Do not involve children in advertisements for tobacco and alcohol.
    5. Famous people or exemplary people should not advertise products or services that are not supposed to be used by children.
  1. About indirect advertisements
    1. The advertisement must advertise product/service, which is intended to be shown.  Do not promote products which have been banned indirectly.  (When ad of alcohol is banned, the ‘Officer’s choice’ whiskey is advertised under the garb of ‘officer’s choice’ soda.) 
    2. Do not advertise such products or services, on which there is a restriction or they are banned from using.
    3. While advertising valid products, do not promote such projects or services, which are banned or which have restrictions on their use.  (When a celebrity is advertising a garment, do not show that person chewing tobacco or drinking alcohol). 
  1. Radio and television-related (Government)

Avoid the following in radio and television advertisements:

  • Criticism on allies of India
  • Criticism of religious organizations
  • Vulgarity and obscenity
  • Character assassination
  • Violence and breach of law
  • Contempt of court
  • Doubt on President of India or judiciary system
  • Statement compromising the nation’s integrity 
  • Criticism of any person using the name
  1. About television

As per the ‘ASCI code,’ there are almost 20 restrictions and codes for advertisements on television.  Some of the restrictions are as follows:

  • Do not advertise against the Indian Constitution
  • Do not glorify violence, unlawfulness, obscenity or vulgarity in the advertisements.
  • Do not use the Indian flag, Indian Constitution, people of national pride for the advertisement of products.
  • Do not mention religious feelings wrongly
  • Do not show children begging or their insult
  • Do not make exaggerated or miraculous statements promising the value of the product, which cannot be proved, while advertising
  • Do not show non-moving or moving advertisement, when the audience is watching the program on television   

If advertisements violate the above restrictions, then the consumer can complain to the complaints department of the Advertising Standard Council of India and ASCI will take care of it.  Just like ASCI, there is one more institution controlling the news and current affairs on private channels (including the advertisements in it), which is called News Broadcasters Association (N.B.A.).  The code of conduct prepared by N.B.A. is followed with the self-discipline by the members of the institution.     

Forty-five television channels are members of the N.B.A.

There are four points in the restrictions of the code of conduct of N.B.A.

  1. Programs showing an exhibition of violence and intimidation of women and children
  2. Subjectivity and nudity
  3. National security
  4. Superstition and black magic and harmful practices and its encouragement  

Apart from this, the Government has made laws for the advertisement of products, services, businesses.  The list is very long, and I will mention a few here.

  1. The Press Council Act 1978
  2. Cable Television Network Rules, 1994
  3. Code for Commercial Advertising on Doordarshan and All India Radio
  4. Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (E.M.M.C.)
  5. Norms for Journalist Conduct issued by the Press Council of India

Following products are banned from using in advertisements.

Tobacco Prohibition Act of 2003

This act prohibits the advertisement of tobacco or products like tobacco through any medium directly or indirectly.  

The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994: 

According to this law, advertisements inviting organ donation for financial gain are prohibited.  

The Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994

According to this law, advertisements about prenatal diagnostics are prohibited.

Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, issued under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956

According to this law, it is declared illegal if Doctors, a group of doctors or medical institutions directly or indirectly advertise to get patients through any media.

Professionals such as Chartered Accountants, Company Secretaries and Cost Accountants

The above-mentioned professionals cannot advertise personally for the services they are offering.

Representation of the People (Amendment Act), 1996

According to this law, the following provisions are made regarding advertisements:

  1. Stop advertisement of the candidate 48 hours before the voting gets over.
  2. Strictly follow the rules set by local officers regarding advertisement boards, electronic advertisements etc.
  3. Give equal opportunity to all political parties during the election to use public advertising media. 
  4. While using private space for political advertisements, take permission from the legal owner of the private space.
  5. The money from the Government treasury cannot be used while advertising exceptional achievement of the ruling party or any other political party.  

It is said that people get rulers according to their worth.  The customers also get advertisements as per their worth.  If they are not aware of the above laws and restrictions and if they are not going to raise complaints about wrong advertisements, then the customer is going to be bombarded with false, misleading and exaggerated ads.

Originally Published in Yashashwi Udyojak. Subscribe Today.

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