There are different codes for different industries. Some of the key industries are discussed below.
The advertising of medicines is controlled by the code of ethics framed by the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines and is as follows.
A practitioner should not attempt to advertise him or herself in any way except by the legitimate means of proficiency in his or her work and by skill and success in his or her practice. It is unethical for a practitioner to insert any advertisement in the public press or issue any card or circular relating to his or her profession or the clinical practice, except for the following:
- on commencing practice;
- on changing his or her address;
- on temporary absence from practice;
- on resumption of practice;
- on disposal of practice;
- on succeeding to another practice;
- on entering or retiring from a partnership; or
- if a colleague leaves the practice.
A medical journal advertisement must be as simple and direct as possible. Every advertisement shall be ‘run on’, without spacing and without display. The type shall be that ordinarily used for articles.
Letters or abbreviations indicating all other qualifications may be added. A statement of specialism may be included only if that specialism has constituted the practice of the healer for at least five years.
It is unethical for any practitioner to permit his or her name to be used in any material relating to diseases or their treatment that is published in the public press or broadcast on radio or television. Approval may be given by the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines, on application, to waive this rule when departure from anonymity is in the public or professional interest.
No interview with a media reporter on subjects relating to diseases and their treatment should be given by a practitioner, and the following additional rules also apply:
- the name of the practitioner interviewed should not be published, nor should his or her identity be revealed, in any report published of the interview, except with the approval of the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines or an authorised organisation;
- if possible, a copy of the report proposed to be published should be submitted for prior approval; and
- the practitioner interviewed should not imply that he or she has superior ability over other practitioners.
Public lectures or addresses to lay audiences may be given on professional subjects to promote alternative medicines.
No practitioner, except with the approval in writing of the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines, shall have his or her name plate affixed anywhere except at his or her residence and on the premises where he or she treats patients.
Name plates shall be unostentatious in size, lettering and form, and may bear the practitioner’s name, qualification and practice hours. A statement of specialty may appear only if that specialty constitutes the sole practice of the practitioner. Practitioners may display their titles, after confirmation, in addition to their clinical qualifications.
Unless prescribed by a registered medical practitioner, no person or company shall take part in the publication of an advertisement referring to any drug that produces a miscarriage in women or prevents conception, or that maintains or improves capacity for sexual pleasure.
Non-compliance may lead to the following consequences:
- the practitioner’s name may be removed from the medical register maintained by the Board by reasons of conviction of an indictable offence or infamous conduct in a professional respect;
- the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines shall have the power to deregister any practitioner for conduct that is likely to bring the profession or the Board into disrepute, or on the grounds that the practitioner has wilfully and persistently refused to comply with the rules, articles or by-laws of the Board;
- an expelled practitioner shall be liable to pay all sums due from him or her to the Board at the time of his or her expulsion; and
- no canvassing for membership of any professional society is allowed. This rule must be strictly followed at congresses and symposia.
In exercise of the powers conferred by section 26 of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act 1999, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, in consultation with the Insurance Advisory Committee, hereby makes the following regulations:
- every insurance company shall be required to prominently disclose in the advertisement, and that part of the advertisement that is required to be returned to the company or insurance intermediary or insurance agent by a prospective insured or an insured, the full particulars of the insurance company, and not merely a trade name or logo; and
- where benefits are more fully described, the form number of the policy and the type of coverage shall be disclosed fully.
If an advertisement is not in accordance with these regulations the ASCI may take action in one or more of the following ways:
- issue a letter to the advertiser seeking information within a specific time, not more than 10 days from the date of issue of the letter;
- direct the advertiser to correct or modify the advertisement already issued in a manner suggested by the Authority with a stipulation that the corrected or modified advertisement shall receive the same type of publicity as the one sought to be corrected or modified;
- direct the advertiser to discontinue the advertisement; or
- any other action considered appropriate by the Authority to ensure that the interests of the public are protected.
The advertiser may seek additional time from the Authority to comply with the directions. The Authority may, however, refuse to grant an extension of time if it feels that the advertiser is seeking only to delay matters. Any failure on the part of the advertiser to comply with the directions of the Authority may result in the latter taking action as necessary, including levying a penalty.
The ASCI also has specific guidelines for other industries, including the following.
The automobile industry
Advertising within the automobile industry must not:
- portray violation of the Traffic Rules;
- show at speed manoeuvres in a manner that encourages unsafe or reckless driving, which could harm the driver, passengers or the general public; or
- show stunts or actions, which require professional driving skills, in normal traffic conditions that, in any case, should carry a readable cautionary message drawing viewer attention to the depiction of stunts.
The food and beverage industry
Some examples of the sector-specific guidelines for the food and beverage industry include the following:
- advertisements should not be misleading or deceptive, and, specifically, they should not mislead consumers to believe that consumption of the product advertised will directly result in personal changes in intelligence, physical ability or exceptional recognition;
- claims made in advertisements should be supported and substantiated with evidence and with adequate scientific basis and advertisements that include information that the consumer, acting reasonably, might interpret as health or nutritional claims shall be supported by appropriate scientific evidence and must meet the requirement of basic food standards laid down under the Food Safety Standards Act and Rules, wherever applicable;
- advertisements should not disparage good dietary practice or the selection of options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables that accepted dietary opinion recommends should form part of a normal diet, and advertisements should not encourage over or excessive consumption or show inappropriately large portions of any food or beverage. Certain advertisements for food or beverages, unless nutritionally designed as such, should not be promoted or portrayed as a meal replacement;
- advertisements should not undermine the importance of healthy lifestyles or mislead as to the nutritive value of the food or beverage and should not undermine the role of parental care and guidance in ensuring proper food choices are made by children;
- claims in advertisements should not be inconsistent with information on the label or packaging of the food or beverage; and
- advertisements for food and beverages should not claim or imply endorsement by any government agency, professional body, independent agency or individual in a particular profession in India unless there is prior consent, the claim is current, the endorsement is verifiable and the agency body is named.
Educational institutions and programmes
Some examples of the sector-specific guidelines for the advertising of educational institutions and programmes include the following:
- advertisements shall not state, or lead the public to believe, that an institution or course or programme is official, recognised, authorised, accredited, approved, registered, affiliated, endorsed or has a legal defined situation, unless the advertiser is able to substantiate this with evidence;
- an advertisement offering a degree or diploma or certificate that, by law, requires to be recognised or approved by an authority shall have the name of that authority specified for that particular field;
- if the advertised institution or programme is not recognised or approved by any mandatory authority, but is affiliated to another institution that is approved or recognised by a mandatory authority, then the full name and location of the said affiliating institution shall also be stated in the advertisement;
- the name of the affiliating institution shall not be less than 50 per cent of the font size of the name of the advertised institution or programme in visual media such as print, internet, hoarding, leaflet, prospectus etc, including television. In audio and audiovisual media, such as radio or TV, the name of the affiliating institution (if applicable) must be stated;
- advertisements shall not state, or lead the public to believe, that enrolment in the institution or programme, preparation course or coaching class will provide the student with a temporary or permanent job, admission to institutions, job promotions or salary increase unless the advertiser is able to submit substantiation to such effect. In addition, the advertisement must carry a disclaimer stating ‘past record is no guarantee of future job prospects’. The font size of the disclaimer should not be less than the size of the claim being made in the advertisement;
- advertisements shall not make claims regarding the extent of course passes achieved, the highest or average salary achieved by graduates, the enrolment of students, the admission of students to renowned educational institutions, marks and rankings of graduates, testimonial of top students, the institution’s or its programme’s competitive ranking, the size and qualification of the institution’s faculty, its affiliation with a foreign institution, or its infrastructure, unless these claims are from the latest completed academic year and substantiated with evidence;
- advertisements stating the competitive ranking of the institution or its programme shall also provide the full name and date of the publication or medium that released the rankings, and the testimonial of top students in an advertisement shall be from students who have participated in the testimony programme, exams or subject from the advertising institution only; and
- any visual of an institution’s infrastructure shown in advertisements shall be real and existing at the time of advertisement’s release.
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