Airtel told to withdraw ‘misleading’ 4G ads

Telecom firm says it will take up the matter with the advertising council, confident of getting a favourable response


The ASCI decision came on a complaint filed by a consumer whose identity could not be determined.
The ASCI decision came on a complaint filed by a consumer whose identity could not be determined.

New Delhi: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has sent a notice to Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telecom services provider, asking the firm to withdraw its 4G speed challenge advertisement on grounds that it is misleading.

“The claim 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. The advertisement contravened Chapter 1.4 of the code,” said the notice, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.

“We have advised the Advertiser to withdraw or to modify appropriately the said advertisement before 7 October 2015 or seek a review of the decision. If you continue to see the advertisement after the due date, kindly bring the same to our notice,” the ASCI notice added.

The ASCI decision came on a complaint filed by a consumer whose identity could not be determined.

Chapter 1.4 of the code says that advertisements shall neither distort facts nor mislead the consumer by means of implications or omissions.

“Advertisements shall not contain statements or visual presentation which directly or by implication or by omission or by ambiguity or by exaggeration are likely to mislead the consumer about the product advertised or the advertiser or about any other product or advertiser,” the code states.

An Airtel spokesperson confirmed that the company had received the notice.

The company will take up the issue with the ASCI.

“We are engaging with ASCI to provide them with the technical data in support of our advertising claims and are following the prescribed process to schedule a review of the said issue. We are confident of getting a favourable response from them,” the company said in a statement on the notice.

“4G technology is proven to deliver the fastest Internet experience, and the same has been accepted globally. As the only commercial providers of this world-class technology in India, our advertising campaign revolves around the 4G promise of fastest Internet speeds and features a set of claims that are based on rigorous test conditions,” the statement added.

A senior official at ASCI said the notice was not binding as yet and the firm would get some time to appeal the decision.

In May, ASCI issued notices to Idea Cellular Ltd and Vodafone India as well as to Airtel for their 3G advertisements. In the case of Idea, ASCI said that its advertisement of Idea Internet Network was found to be misleading by ambiguity as it led consumers to believe that through Idea Internet Network (IIN), a student can avail of the same level of education (economics and biology) as is being provided in a college.

“There is no data to support that the subjects being referred to in the advertisement are being made available for formal education,” ASCI had said.

Similarly, the case for Vodafone India Ltd’s advertisement claiming “Fastest 3G Network” was also not substantiated adequately and was misleading by ambiguity, ASCI said. In the case of Airtel’s 3G ads, ASCI found that the claims of being “India’s Best 3G network” and that “Airtel gives 122% faster download speeds than other 3G networks” were not adequately substantiated.