The government is intent on setting up a body equipped with penal powers to deal with misleading advertisements in print and electronic media. Three ministries — the information and broadcasting ministry, consumer affairs ministry and health ministry—are coordinating to set up the panel.
While the I&B ministry lays down rules on what can be shown in ads, the industry in India enjoys self-regulation through the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which deals with complaints received from consumers and the industry.
"In a meeting with ASCI representatives, I told them there was a need for legal regulatory system," KV Thomas, food & consumer affairs minister said, adding that the three ministries will collectively formulate the new regulatory mechanism.
Consumer affairs ministry officials also pointed out to ASCI that the government had no problem with genuine manufacturers as none of them indulged in misleading advertisements. "The problem is with the unscrupulous manufacturers as they only resort to dubious advertisements," said the official.
Last month, HT had reported on how the PMO had cracked the whip on misleading ads and had asked the consumers affairs ministry to prepare a draft of a regulatory mechanism within a month.
The PMO intervened in the wake of increasing number of exaggerated product claims especially in ads touting anti-aging creams, fairness creams,, weight-loss programmes, and of vitamins or dietary supplements that may even harm consumers. . There are also numerous instances of false testimonials to convince buyers, misleading prices and disparaging rival products.
The I&B ministry has also taken up the matter. "We have requested the consumers affairs ministry to send a nominee for the inter-ministerial committee, which oversees all such issues," said a ministry official.