The Advertising Standards Council of India has seen a huge increase in complaints against these famous people. From MS Dhoni to Virat Kohli and some famous Bollywood personalities breach the rule of AD. The number of complaints increased by 803% in comparison to the last year. The focus now shifts to determining who is responsible for this.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) recently made a list of famous people who didn’t do enough research before endorsing a product or brand in their advertisements. Cricketer MS Dhoni is at the top of the list, and it also includes cricketer Virat Kohli, actors Bhuvan Bam, Jim Sarbh, Vishal Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Shibani Dandekar, Pratik Gandhi, and Sara Ali Khan. The ASCI also said that complaints against these celebrities increased by 803% compared to last year. But, should we only blame celebrities for not following the rules? Let’s explore this further..
Actor Pratik Gandhi says he didn’t even know about these rules. He argues that it’s not practical for celebrities to use a product for the exact time mentioned by the brand. He believes it’s not his responsibility to do research. He believes that both the brand and the government agencies responsible for granting licenses should be held accountable for their offerings.
Gandhi mentions that he does check for important safety marking. For example, if it’s food, he looks for the FSSAI mark. If he sees it, he assumes that the relevant authority has done its job. However, he can’t personally verify if the product is as it claims to be.
Actor Gajraj Rao, who also owns an ad film company, believes that actors are paid to do a job. While it is everyone’s social responsibility not to deceive the public, he thinks it is unfair to accuse and take legal action against celebrities in such matters.
He explains, “An actor has worked hard to build their reputation, and if they promote a product to their fan base, it’s not harmful. They are getting paid for their work, and they are not the ones creating the product. It’s similar to going to a doctor for prescribed medicines. The doctor cannot be held responsible if the medications are discovered to be counterfeit. The doctor would only say that these are government-approved medicines, and it’s not their mistake. Actors are just like those doctors.”
Kakkar gives an example of cricketer MS Dhoni, who endorsed a housing project that was later found to have committed financial irregularities and diverted funds. In 2019, an audit team appointed by the Supreme Court discovered these wrongdoings, causing financial losses for many homebuyers who had invested in the project based on MS Dhoni endorsement. The cricketer was held responsible for his actions and publicly apologized for breach the rule of AD while returning the money he received from the company.
Lawyers Syed Tamjeed Ahmad and Rakhee Biswas highlight that in January, the government introduced guidelines that require influencers/celebrities to ensure the authenticity of the claims made by manufacturers or service providers before advertising or endorsing any product or service.
They also mention that the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 considers falsely describing a product or service or giving a false guarantee as a misleading advertisement. This means that celebrities/influencers might now face legal action in consumer litigations for breach the rule of AD. Influencers and celebrities are advised to conduct thorough research before endorsing any product or service. Otherwise, we might see more cases where celebrities are taken to court.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General of ASCI, understands that celebrities are unlikely to have expertise in the products they endorse. She suggests that they should consult reputable experts for due diligence. ASCI also provides a due diligence service through a panel of experts. Both advertisers and celebrities have a responsibility towards their audience and consumers, both morally and legally, she says. According to Shraddha Kapoor, it is fine for famous people to endorse brands or items, but it is unacceptable for brands to deceive consumers with their advertisements and for celebrities to endorse products without being accountable for the statements made in the advertisements they feature in.