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ASCI tightens guidelines for disclaimers in ads

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has tightened the guidelines for disclaimers used in advertisements.

The ad regulator on January 24 said that it has updated its ‘Guidelines for Disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements’.

ASCI’s code on disclaimers are used to properly explain and support claims made in advertisements to ensure that consumers can read all the information presented in an ad.

In the past three years, ASCI has processed over 800 advertisements which were found to be in violation of the disclaimer guidelines.

In a recent survey carried out by ASCI with 130 consumers, it was observed that 80 percent of respondents did not notice the disclaimer, 33 percent could not understand the disclaimers clearly even after adequate exposure time had been provided and 62 percent of respondents felt that the disclaimer was excessively long.

The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC), during their meetings, have also observed that sometimes, the frame of the advertisement that contains the disclaimer was very crowded, and distracted the viewer’s focus, said ASCI.

To address these issues, ASCI has made additions to the existing disclaimer guidelines which includes that the use of disclaimer should be kept to a minimum. “Long or otherwise complex disclaimers with large blocks of text and difficult words are a deterrent to viewers attempting to read the contents of the disclaimer. In such cases, advertisers should modify the headline claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimers,” said ASCI.

On hold duration and readability of disclaimer, ASCI said that in television commercials or any other video advertisement on digital media, all disclaimers should be clearly readable to consumers. “In a single frame in an advertisement, there should not be more than one disclaimer. The disclaimer should be restricted to two full length lines and remain on screen for more than 4 seconds for every line,” said the ad watchdog.

“While ASCI has had disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was observed that over-use of disclaimers made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented in the ad. Hence, it is important that claims are crafted in a way that minimizes the need for qualificatory disclaimers. Where disclaimers are needed, they should be presented in a manner that someone who is interested in reading them has the opportunity to do so,” said Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General ASCI.

Disclaimer guidelines that remain unchanged include

  •  A disclaimer can expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further detail, but should not contradict or modify the material claim made nor contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser or change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.
  •  A disclaimer should not attempt to suppress material information with respect to the claim, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent.
  • A disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement.
  • A disclaimer shall be in the same language as that of the claim/s of the advertisement. In case of bilingual advertisements, the disclaimer should be in the dominant language of the advertisement.

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