Staff Reporter

Mechanism of self-regulation in India not entirely effective, say activists

CHENNAI: The need for regulating advertisements, especially those promising health services or targeted at children, was emphasised at a panel discussion organised by the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG).

Bharath Jairaj, Director, CAG, said here on Friday that the power and ubiquity of advertising had increased drastically with the proliferation of the media.

Advertisements provided consumers with a choice of goods and access to critical information, but the mechanism of self-regulation in India was not entirely effective, he said.

The self-regulatory body, the Advertisements Standards Council of India (ASCI), consisting of advertisers, agencies and media representatives, had not always taken action against non-compliance by its members, said Manubhai Shah.

Mr. Shah, Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Centre, said that practices such as issuing corrective ads did not exist, though non-corporate members were present on the complaints committee.

He had been lobbying for a regulatory mechanism that could pre-examine advertisements aimed at children or promoting `therapeutic' services, such as enabling weight loss.

He recommended that regulatory bodies be established at the Central and State levels and said manufacturers, advertisers and advertising agencies should be held responsible for issuing misleading advertisements.

Jayashree Nambiar, a teacher from The School, Krishnamurthy Foundation, India, said that advertisements tended to conform to existing social norms.

They curbed the individuality of young people besides reducing their freedom, she said.

She urged students to be vigilant of the products they use, complain to appropriate authorities if they found an advertisement offensive and look closely at the nexus between media organisations and advertisers.

Arjun Rajagopalan, Trustee at the Sundaram Medical Foundation and CAG, said advertisements on prescription drugs were prohibited in India.

In the United States, where the practice was permitted, studies showed that heavily promoted prescription drugs registered the highest increase in sales.