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Central Consumer Protection Authority fines IQRA IAS Institute for false testimonials

As per the Annual Complaints Report of the Advertising Council of India for 2022-2023, education sector is one among the key violators of advertising guidelines.

What’s the news: The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) levied a Rs. 1 lakh penalty on M/s IQRA IAS Institute for misleading advertisement and unfair trade practice by advertising misleading testimonials of top-rank holders of 2015 and 2017 in the UPSC Civil Services exam. The institute has been asked to discontinue the false testimonials and misleading claims from their website with immediate effect, as per a press release by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution on August 29, 2023.

Why it matters: As per the Advertising Council of India’s (ASCI) Annual Complaints report 2022-2023, the education sector is one of the key violater of advertising guidelines. To address this, the ASCI revised the guidelines for advertising “educational institutions, programmes and platforms” after a month-long public consultation. However, here we see that the CCPA removed the false testimonials for violating the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. This could have ramifications on India’s advertising policies in the future.

What was the misleading information? Although the IQRA IAS Institute was established in 2018, its website put up testimonials of top-rank holders of UPSC CSE from 2015 and 2017 as their students. The institute also claimed itself as “the only coaching academy to have the best faculty from all around India for providing the best UPSC online prelims test series 2020, thus making it the top UPSC coaching within a year in Pune.”

“An advertisement is considered to be valid and not deceitful when it does not mislead consumers by exaggerating the usefulness of the products or services. Disclosure in the advertisement should not hide the material information and be hard to miss with respect to any claim made, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent,” said the Ministry.

It also talked about how the government has issued the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, and notified a framework on Online Consumer Reviews to curb fake, deceptive, and misleading reviews in November 2022.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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