New Delhi: Expressing serious doubts over self-regulation in advertisements, food and consumer affairs minister K V Thomas on Thursday said the government is mulling an inter-ministerial committee to strengthen laws and regulations to prevent misleading ads.

“Will self-regulation work? Is it working? Will strengthening of the self-regulation of advertising content take care of the present problems that consumers face vis-a-vis deceitful advertising? Are we doing enough to protect consumers’ interest?" Thomas asked while addressing a gathering of advertisers.

Union minister for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni and minister for food K.V. Thomas at the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) conference on “Strengthening Self Regulation of Advertising Content in New Delhi on Thursday. ASCI chairman I. Venkat also seen. PTI

“Unfortunately, laws like the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act and the Cable Television Network Regulation Act have not had the desired effect to prevent misleading ads," he noted.

He said since several ministries including those of Health and Information and Broadcasting, are involved in the implementation of some of these laws, the government was looking at the possibility of forming a committee in this regard.

We are now considering an inter-ministerial committee to look at ways and means of making these laws and regulation effective", Thomas said.

There is also a demand for an independent regulator to monitor and certify health-related advertisements, he added.

Thomas told the gathering that misleading advertisements continue to appear despite best efforts of self-regulatory bodies such as Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

“What strikes you most is that most of the misleading ads are issued not by small fly-by-night companies, but big corporations, who could even be, members of ASCI," he noted.

He quoted a recent ASCI report pointing out an advertisement issued by the Piramal Healthcare on ‘getting complete energy in eight days or money back´ and by Airtel Digital TV on ‘Free Regional Pack for life´.

He said, according to the report, the two could not substantiate their claims.

The minister said that although the Consumer Protection Act provides protection from unfair trade practices, it does not give power to consumer courts to examine ads suo motu to facilitate quick action through interim injunctions.

“In other words, these courts can award compensation to consumers affected by false and misleading ads, but they have no machinery to nip them in the bud," Thomas noted.