NEW DELHI: The advertising watchdog’s fast track panel on complaints has upheld a complaint by Bharti Airtel against Reliance Jio’s advertisements that claimed its data network being the best and the largest, and said the ads were misleading by “ambiguity” and “implication”.
Upholding other complaints of Airtel, the Fast Track Complaints Panel (FTCP) of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) ruled that Jio’s claims of “best entertainment” through television commercials and YouTube ads, was not substantiated.
ET reviewed a copy of the interim ruling.
In a statement issued on Sunday, however, Jio said the advertising panel was yet to take a final decision, and termed Airtel’s allegations as “frivolous”. “This is another instance of an incumbent dominant operator thwarting every initiative of a new entrant to offer state-of-the-art digital services to Indian consumers,” it said.
It’s the latest in a series of fights over advertisements between the two. They are involved in a bitter duel for subscribers in the market through tariffs and other means such as content and other services, besides speed of their networks, where, according to experts, perception is sometimes more important than actuals.
In mid-May, Airtel had complained that there was no basis – either through clarification or independent third-party data – for Jio to substantiate its claims made in its advertisements, and, therefore, they were violated ASCI code. There are larger networks than Jio in the world and also those that provide better benefits and are faster in terms of speed, it said.
Airtel alleged that Jio was aiming to entice and lure viewers to subscribe to its network through misrepresentation.
“This complaint was upheld. The TVC and the YouTube advertisement contravened Chapter 1.4 of the ASCI Code,” the panel said on the three separate complaints filed by Airtel against Jio’s claims of best and largest network, best entertainment and best post-paid offers.
The observations are interim, with the next date of meeting between the panel and Jio set for June 18.
“The FTCP was of the opinion that ‘data consumption’ cannot be the parameter to claim ‘largest mobile data network’. The infrastructure as well as the number of subscribers, are important parameters for which the complainant provided evidence that China Mobile Ltd has larger number of 4G base stations as well as subscriber base,” the panel said. It said the claim refers to only “consumption of data” and not the extent and infrastructure of network.
The panel said Jio’s claims of offering the “best post-paid offers” was misleading by “omission” since it is not clear what aspect of the advertiser’s product was being compared with what aspects of competitors’ products.
Jio, however, said the matter was still under discussion with ASCI.
“We believe that the recommendations at this stage do not reflect the submissions made and favourable views expressed by ASCI during the course of discussions. We have followed up with further submissions and clarifications so that the right decision is made,” a Jio spokesperson said in response to ET’s queries.
The latest salvo follows complaints that Jio had made earlier made to ASCI about Airtel’s speed claims and in courts against its campaign of broadcasting IPL matches in partnership with Hotstar.
“Telecom is the new cola in the hands of the new consumer of new India. The category is about speed. And speed is therefore the cutting edge USP. The battle happens here,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor.
“Perception, sadly, is more important than the truth. In the category of the TSP, the perceptual is more important than the real. Therefore, this battle and the war,” he said.