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NEW DELHI : “Mutual funds are subject to market risks, please read the offer document carefully before investing." A majority of consumers may have missed the disclaimer sometimes because it was said too fast, or was written in an illegible font, or small print, in an advertisement.

It is not a one-off instance, where small prints in ads have caught consumers unaware. While many companies across sectors warn consumers not to try out stunts shown in an ad or explain the contents of their products, or use disclaimers, in line with prescribed norms, Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) found over 800 ads flouting the guidelines in the last three years.

The Asci survey involved 130 participants, out of whom 80% did not see the disclaimers, while about 33% could not understand clearly what it said despite adequate time.

62% of the respondents said disclaimers were excessively long. A section of consumers said the frame of an ad with a disclaimer was crowded, and distracted them.

To act on such violations, ASCI updated its guidelines which require firms to issue suitable disclaimers properly explaining and supporting the claims made in the ad to ensure consumers can read the information properly.

Asci chief executive officer and secretary general Manisha Kapoor said: “While we had the disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was seen that over-use of disclaimers also made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented.

Additionally, all claims must be crafted in a way that minimizes the need for qualificatory disclaimers and 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."

Companies will now have to ensure disclaimers should be kept to a minimum and avoid long and complex format with large blocks of text and difficult words which can be a deterrent to viewers.

That apart, the new guidelines says that duration and readability of a disclaimer in a television commercial, or other video advertisements on digital platforms, should be clear to the consumers.

In a single frame of an ad there should not be more than one disclaimer and it should be restricted to two full lines and remain on screen for four seconds for every line, it added.

For regulatory requirements where the disclaimer exceeds two lines additional hold duration should be accounted for.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Varuni Khosla

Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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