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Healthcare sector most violative of advertisement rules, says Asci report

By Raghav Aggarwal
May 23, 2024 14:31 IST
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Maximum cases of advertisement norms violations were reported from the healthcare sector during 2023-24, followed by illegal offshore betting and personal care categories, according to the Advertising Standards Council of India’s (Asci’s) Annual Complaints Report released on Wednesday.


Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

The healthcare sector accounted for a maximum 19 per cent or 1,569 of 8,229 advertisements scrutinised by Asci during the year.

Illegal offshore betting accounted for 17 per cent, while the share of personal care advertisements was 13 per cent.


The report also said that in 2023-24, the number of complaints received by Asci regarding advertisement being misleading and violative of norms was 12.75 per cent higher at 10,093 as compared to 8,951 in 2022-23.

Manisha Kapoor, chief executive officer and secretary general of Asci, told Business Standard that the reason for healthcare being on the top of the table this year was the rise in focus and the number of advertisements related to this sector after the Covid-19 pandemic.

She added that the primary media of these advertisements has also changed, leading to more visibility now.

“A lot of these ads used to be in very hyperlocal print. So whether it was to cure diseases like diabetes, cancer, or sexual problems etc., you would see a lot of these ads in hyperlocal newspapers,” she said.

“But now, a lot of them are on digital media.

"The visibility of such advertising is now much more at the forefront."

According to the report, 86 per cent of violative advertisements in this sector are featured on digital media.

Kapoor said that this trend is “something to be worried about” as the healthcare sector is of “extreme vulnerability”.

Moreover, 1249 healthcare advertisements were processed for violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954 (DMR act), with 91 per cent of these violating clause 3(b) of maintenance and enhancement of sexual prowess.

Notably, the DMR Act prohibits the advertisement of “magic remedies” for the treatment of certain diseases and disorders.

This includes advertisements that intend to encourage the use of drugs for the maintenance or enhancement of a person’s ability for sexual pleasure or the treatment of 56 illnesses including cancer, blindness, deafness, and diabetes, among others.

In the remaining advertisements in the healthcare sector, 190 were from clinics/hospitals/wellness centres making misleading claims about their services, care and cure for chronic conditions.

As many as 129 were from pharma companies for drugs and medicines with claims around prevention and cure, superior quality and leadership.

Medical supplies and health apps constituted the remaining seven advertisements.

The second largest violator was the offshore betting sector.

Kapoor said that the main challenge with this is that the advertisers are not based in India.

“There is no contact, there is no website.

"In many cases, however, they are able to contact celebrities and celebrities are able to participate in all of that,” she said, adding that in most cases, the action required is taking down these websites.

Kapoor also said that there needs to be more “centralised” action against these websites.

“On betting, we work closely with the government to share the cases that we have uncovered so that they can take action in terms of putting down these sites where they see a violation of the law,” she said.

For the third most violative sector, personal care, Kapoor said that most advertisements in this sector have become influencer-led, leading to a higher number of violations. 55 per cent of ads in this sector were influencer disclosure violations.

According to the report, influencer violations accounted for 21 per cent of all ads processed.

The highest were in personal care, followed by fashion & lifestyle and food & beverage.

Interestingly, this was the first time the baby care sector made it to the list of top 10 violators owing to influencers promoting products and services without disclosing material connections.

As many as 81 per cent of the 91 advertisements processed from this sector were from influencer promotions without disclosure.

About 99 per cent of these advertisements required modification and 76 per cent were not contested by the advertisers.

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Raghav Aggarwal
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