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ASCI calls out Flipkart, Vodafone, Snapdeal, Uber & other for false advertising


The Advertising Standards Council of India’s (ASCI) Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) has upheld complaints (pdf) against 82 out of 148 advertisements brought to it in June. While these adverts belonged to various categories like 26 in personal healthcare category, 22 in education, 9 in food and beverages, 7 in media and entertainment etc., it also included some digital companies.

These include BSNL, Uber, Snapdeal, Flipkart (twice) and Vodafone. Without further ado, here are the list of ads that are now banned from being displayed:

Flipkart’s footwear listings on its website for three products have been banned. These include Canvera shoes where the printed MRP on the product is Rs 399, which the Flipkart listing claimed to be Rs 799 with a discounted price of Rs 399. Another listing was for the OBS footwear where the actual MRP of Rs 449 is displayed as the discounted price and the actual price was claimed to be Rs 999. Similarly, Flipkart’s Xpert Commendo 6 White Black shoe was claimed by the listing to be priced at Rs 1078, while the actual price, which was the same as the discounted price, was Rs 469.

Note that the particular incident related to Canvera shoes was extensively covered in the media in June. Even prior to this, the company received a lot of flak last year for its ‘Big Billion Day sale’ which, with similar accusations of inflated prices, fake discounts etc., left a bad taste for many customers. These are also incidents that did come to light, and no doubt other sellers have resorted to similar practices. With a big upcoming sale next week, we hope that Flipkart can clean up its act.

BSNL apparently claimed on its website that “…..NOW BSNL AT YOUR DOORSTEP…. Our Sales team will come to your Doorstep to collect documents and provide the connection” was apparently found false. We wonder why the company would market something like this if they didn’t really want to bother approaching a potential customer.

Uber we feel got the harsher end of the stick. Its ad that states “You drink, we drive”, in conjunction with depiction of bar logos as #UBERAPPROVED PARTNERS, which was seen as promoting alcohol drinking. We imagine the ad would go through if not for bar logos and the hashtag, which is a pity since encouraging to take a cab when drunk is a good thing.

However, Ola, Uber and the likes do advertise their products falsely. For example, this Scroll report amply demonstrates how claims by aggregators to be cheaper than auto rickshaws are quite off from reality.

Snapdeal’s ad which depicted a man riding a bike without a helmet, was flouted as supporting unsafe practices, given that Government has been taking the helmet requirement pretty seriously these days. In July, it had even banned the sale of bikes without also selling helmets along. A little research could’ve helped Snapdeal fix this problem.

Vodafone’s ad claims  “uninterrupted voice calls on 3G Network” which the agency claims was not substantiated. Note that Vodafone came in second as far as call drop were concerned, according to a TRAI assessment in July. Clearly Vodafone was not equipped well enough to make such a claim, which the ASCI has rightly called out.

Airtel while not banned from advertising its 4G ads, did receive a notice from ASCI to withdraw its 4G speed challenge advertisement on grounds that it is misleading. The claims in the ad, ‘Airtel 4G is the fastest network ever’ and ‘If your network is faster, we will pay your mobile bills for life’, is misleading by omission in the absence of appropriate disclaimers in the print, TV, hoarding advertisements” according to the ASCI. This ad is clearly misleading in the sense that no other telecom operator has yet launched 4G, so there really isn’t another to compare against. However, Airtel is not obligated to follow this notice and the firm said it would appeal the decision.

Image source: Flickr user yuichirock

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