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ASCI directs Airtel to “withdraw or modify” 4G ad in a week

After the story published by
exchange4media last month, a
consumer complained against
the Airtel 4G advertisement to
ASCI, and received a response
from ASCI saying that they
have advised Airtel to change
the ad
Last month, exchange4media
published a report stating that
ASCI’s Consumer Complaints
Council had upheld complaints
against 114 out of 144
advertisements. Out of this,
ads of three of the major
telecom operators like
Vodafone, Idea and Bharti
Airtel were pulled up for what
ASCI classified as misleading
content. As a result, the
advertisers were forced to
remove those portions of the ad
which couldn’t be substantiated
with proper proof.
After the story, a consumer
complained against the Airtel
4G advertisement to ASCI, and
received a response saying that
they have advised Airtel to
change the ad.
As per CCC decision, the
complaint was upheld. Here are
the excerpts for the decision:
“The CCC viewed the print
advertisement and considered
the Advertiser’s response as
well as the opinion of the
technical expert presented at
the meeting. The supporting
documents provided by the
advertiser do not mention
“fastest network”. The
Annexure I clarifies that the
numbers are meant to be taken
as such only in favourable
conditions and also states that
the average rates are lower
than this peak rate and are
difficult to predict because
they depend on a multitude of
operational and network
factors. The major factors are
physical propagation
environment and network
congestion. Thus, a favourable
location in a lightly loaded 3G
network can certainly give a
better network performance
than a congested 4G network
access at the cell edge. The
advertiser should read
conditions 1 and 2 listed in page
56 and 57 of Annexure I which
should repeal such false claim
of being the “fastest network
ever”.The response provided by
Advertiser shows that in the
same favorable conditions, 4G
speeds are three times that of
3G. However, it is well known
that the data-rate in such
networks is logarithmic in the
received SNR (signal to noise
ratio). It is also known that
the SNR typically falls of at an
exponential rate of 2.2 to 3.0
with distance. Thus a 4G end-
user at 3_ distance to the
base-station than a 3G one has
less data-rates to claim.
Clearly the 4G challenge can be
easily broken in download
speeds by using a 3G phone only
in favorable locations. So the
aim of the challenge is not very
clear. The advertisement also
contains statements like `a
movie in 3 minutes’, album
`upload in 1 minute’,
statements which are clearly
false is many contexts, unless
qualified with statistical
support/disclaimers. The CCC
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.
“We have advised the Advertiser
to withdraw or to modify
appropriately the said
advertisement before the
October 7, 2015 or seek a
review of the decision. If you
continue to see the
advertisement after the due
date kindly bring the same to
our notice.”

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