The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has said it has found 50 campaigns by Ayurveda and homeopathic drug makers offering a cure for COVID-19 in April alone and had flagged them to the union government for action.
The advertisements were across media platforms and were found to be violating Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) order dated April 1, 2020, prohibiting publicity and advertisement of AYUSH-related claims, the self-regulatory body said in a statement.
The disclosure from ASCI for April comes a day after the government issued a gag order against Baba Ramdev's company Patanjali Ayurved from advertising a drug as COVID-19 cure within hours of him launching it.
ASCI said the AYUSH ministry had sought its help to alert them about such advertisements and launched a drive to act against such misleading advertisements claiming prevention or cure COVID-19, which led to the discovery of the 50 potentially erring companies.
The body also made public the list of the 50 companies which were found to have advertised about COVID-19 cure or prevention in April.
Interestingly, the list also includes a slew of entities advertising about homeopathic medicine "Arsenic Album 30", which is being widely used as a COVID-19 prevention drug.
There were no big brands in the list, and most of them seemed to be localised entities from various parts of the country.
Apart from this, the ASCI said it also flagged 91 cases of a potential violation of Drugs and Magic Remedies regulations to the AYUSH ministry. The list had companies making a slew of claims including curing diabetes, cancer, sexual problems, lifestyle ailments like blood pressure, and hypertension.
Image enhancement effects in 'Fair and Lovely' ad under ASCI scanner:
Hindustan Unilever's advertisement for its brand 'Fair and Lovely' Advanced Multi Vitamin has also faced ASCI flak for being "misleading by omission".
ASCI received a complaint against the brand and found out that the print advertisement showing image enhancement effects such as brightening/lightening to be "misleading" and added that the advertiser while admitting to using minor image enhancement, did not specify the image enhancement done by them.
The rebuke comes at a time when skin color and racism is one of the most discussed topics globally and has also resulted in the 'black lives matter' movement. Domestically, some constituencies have been voicing concerns against the fairness creams as well.
Other major brands that have faced the ASCI's flak during April include Asian Paints, Reliance Industries, Tata Motors, FCA India Automobiles, Grofers, Makemytrip, and Indigo Airlines for various concerns.
Celebrities who were found to have not done due diligence in advertisements making misleading claims included actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar for their ad for Tirumala Oil, badminton player Saina Nehwal's campaign for Rasna and actor Parineeti Chopra for Bajaj Consumer Care, it said.
ASCI investigated complaints against 533 advertisements, of which 115 advertisements were promptly withdrawn while evaluation of the remaining 418 advertisements led to complaints against 377 being upheld, it said.
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