New Delhi: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has asked Bharti Airtel Ltd to “modify" or “withdraw" advertisements that are based on a claim by network testing agency Ookla LLC and suggested that Airtel is “officially India’s fastest network".
The advertising industry watchdog said the complaint against Airtel was considered by the Fast Track Complaints Committee (FTCC) at a meeting held on 29 March. “We have advised the advertiser to modify appropriately or to withdraw the said TVC (television commercial) and the website advertisement by 11 April 2017," ASCI secretary general Shweta Purandare said in a letter to the complainant. Airtel in a note said it does not agree ASCI’s decision and will file an appeal as per guidelines.
“Our campaign is based on findings by Ookla, the globally recognized leader in mobile speed tests and also a benchmark for reputed global operators. We have shared all supporting facts with ASCI and strongly believe our campaign is compliant with all guidelines. We will be happy to provide more details, if required, and hope ASCI will reconsider its decision," the company said in a statement.
Ookla stood by its findings.
“The award designation was validated using the IP methodology described...for all speed test results during the past six months of 2016 (Q3 and Q4). When analysing the data for all of 2016, Airtel was still the clear leader. When analysing data for 2017 to date, Airtel is still the clear leader. It is worth noting that after correcting for the Android limitation, Airtel’s lead over Jio increases for all aforementioned date ranges," it said in a statement.
On 20 March, Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd filed a complaint with ASCI, urging the watchdog to take action on Airtel’s advertisement.
Jio did not respond to an email seeking comments.
ASCI, in its response, also noted that Airtel’s TVC does not state that the speed results pertain to a specific period.
“FTCC noted that the claim by the advertiser is not specific to 4G technology, whereas the TVC has visuals with reference to 4G. The speed comparison visual also has a reference to 4G in the notification bar and shows poor signal strength for the other service provider. FTCC considered this representation to be misleading by ambiguity and implication," it said.
FTCC also considered the term “officially" to be misleading as this test is not based on any government organization or recognized authority such as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, in this category and, hence, exploits consumers’ lack of knowledge.