ASCI Asks Airtel To Withdraw ‘Misleading’ 4G Ads, Telco Responds

airtel-4g-tariff-hikeYou are not going to see print or online ads of Airtel 4G claiming ‘fastest network’ or ‘mobile bills free for life’ anymore as the Adevrtising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found them misleading and asked the operator to stop them. ASCI  has served a notice in this regard to Airtel, the only operator to offer high-speed 4G services in the country.

The operator has admitted to have received such notice. ASCI has found that there is no way to substantiate the claim by the operator, and such advertisements are ‘misleading’ in nature.

Airtel’s advertising agencies have also asked the publishers where the ads were displayed or used to withdraw the ads till further notice.

As a publisher TeleAnalysis was also asked by the advertising agency not to run the ads anymore, without citing any reason or linking it to the ASCI issue.

ASCI has asked the operator time till October 7 to respond.

“We have advised the Advertiser to withdraw or to modify appropriately the said advertisement before 7 October 2015 or seek a review of the decision,” ASCI said in the notice. “If you continue to see the advertisement after the due date, kindly bring the same to our notice.”

However, in a late evening reply to the National Stock Exchange (NSE), Airtel said its engaged with ASCI on this matter.

“The 4G technology is proven to deliver the fastest internet experience and the same has been accepted globally. Bharti Airtel is the only commercial providers of this world class technology in India and the advertising campaign of the Company revolves around the promise of fastest internet speeds and features a set of claims that are based on rigorous test conditions. In response to the communication from Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the Company has engaged with ASCI to provide them with the technical data in support of advertising claims and are following the prescribed process to schedule a review of the said issue. The Company is confident of getting a favorable response from ASCI.”

The Indian bourse had sought clarification from the operator on the matter.

Airtel launched its 4G services on a pan-India basis on August 5 and launched brand campaign around Airtel 4G. Few of the advertising claims include ‘fastest network’, ‘mobile bill free for life’ if a faster network is spotted, ‘full movie download in 3 minutes’ etc.

On the fastest network challenge, ASCI said that ‘the 4G challenge can easily be broken in download speeds by using a 3G phone in favourable locations.’

“So, the aim of the challenge is not very clear,” ASCI said in its remarks. The advertising council was responding to a complaint filed by a user on the Airtel 4G challenge.

The CCC (Consumer complaints council) concluded that though 4G provides better services than 3G under the same operating conditions, it is not right to claim it as “the fastest network ever”. The claim in the Ad, “Airtel 4G is the fastest network ever” and “If your network is faster, we will pay your mobile bills for life”, is misleading by omission in the absence of appropriate disclaimers in the print, TV , hoarding advertisements itself. The advertisement contravened Chapter 1.4 of the Code.


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