India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has announced that it has updated advertising guidelines for educational institutions, organisations and platforms. Said guidelines have also centred on putting the mental health and physical well-being of students in focus.

ASCI has noted that the education sector has been amongst the top violative sectors for the past few years when it comes to advertising. In its Annual Complaints Report 2022–23, classical education ranked second among the top violative categories with 13.8% of total ads that did not adhere to ASCI’s guidelines.

Public consultation for the guidelines started on March 14, 2023, and was concluded on April 15, 2023.

While ASCI’s existing education guidelines require educational entities to substantiate any claims they make in their advertisements with relevant evidence, this latest update ensures that the advertisers are also mindful that their ads consider the students’ mental and physical well-being. 

The amendments state that ads by educational institutions, including universities, colleges and schools, coaching classes, edtech platforms and others that offer education and training programmes should not stereotype students based on their gender, or appearance, nor portray those who score low as unsuccessful or failures. 

Shri Rohit Kumar Singh, the secretary for Ministry of Consumer Affairs said, “Education advertising touches almost every citizen in the country. Ensuring the sanctity of advertising in this sector is an important task. The ASCI guidelines address the various issues that plague the sector and we hope that the industry will follow these in letter and spirit. I would like to reiterate that misleading ads are also a violation of the Consumer Protection Act and all necessary steps will be taken to keep our citizens safe”. 

Meanwhile, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general at ASCI, commented, “In addition to ads not being misleading, the updated guidelines also provide for the physical and mental well-being of students, particularly school students. While fierce pressure in education is a reality, advertising must not perpetuate this problem. normalise it or exploit student and parental vulnerability.” 

She added, “Based on our Ed-Next study, such issues were identified, and post extensive consultation with different stakeholders, we are now issuing the updated guidelines. ASCI remains deeply committed to consumer protection, and we will continue to update our Code to reflect contemporary and emerging concerns in advertising content.”

Singapore – Global e-commerce platform Amazon has launched a new report detailing its advances to crack down counterfeits on the platform, which in turn protects their customers, brands, and selling partners.

The report also details how the strategic combination of industry-leading technology and experts are successfully stopping bad actors and making an impact beyond Amazon’s store. It notes that the platform has also identified, seized, and disposed appropriately around six million counterfeit goods, preventing them from reaching customers and being resold elsewhere in the global supply chain.

Part of its success in cracking down on counterfeit goods on the platform is due to the platform’s efforts in identifying and dismantling counterfeit organisations. In 2022, the platform’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit sued or referred for investigation over 1,300 criminals in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and China.

The platform has also continued to work with law enforcement agencies and global brands to further prevent counterfeit goods entering the platform’s supply chain. Moreover, it has also continued to improve its robust seller verification, including connecting one-on-one with prospective sellers through video chat, coupled with continued advancements in their machine learning-based detection.

Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of worldwide selling partner services at Amazon, said, “We take pride in the progress our organisation has made this past year, specifically further evolving our technology to stay ahead of bad actors and doubling down on our criminal referral and litigation efforts.”

Mehta added, “We’re appreciative of the growing industry-wide collaboration in this space, and look forward to continuing to innovate and work together to drive counterfeits to zero.”

Bangkok, Thailand – Cryptocurrency exchange company Huobi has announced that it is shutting down its operations in Thailand by July 1 this year after failing to secure a licence in the country, as well as a new statement from Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission delisting Huobi.

In an online statement, Huobi said that by 1 July, the Thai operations are no longer legally affiliated with the Huobi Group and its affiliates. It also encouraged its local users to withdraw their funds from the exchange.

“Since September 2021, we have been trying to contact all clients to withdraw their assets,” the statement said, while also urging other users to contact the exchange via email or Telegram for refund requests.

According to the newest statement from Thailand’s SEC, Huobi was found to have ‘flawed management structure and system’ between February and March 2021. Which, as per the Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission, was not sufficient to ensure compliance with required regulations, leading to its licence suspension’.

“The SEC, at its meeting No. 15/21, held on September 2, 2021, therefore resolved to recommend to the Minister of Finance. to consider revoking the licence to operate a cryptocurrency exchange trading centre and Huobi’s digital token trading centre, and ordered Huobi to suspend its services as a digital asset trading centre,” the SEC statement read.

The update is in line with Thailand’s recent strict guidelines on cryptocurrency use, stating that they are meant to avert potential impacts on the country’s financial stability and economic system.

Manila, Philippines – The country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has teamed up with tech giant Google to require advertisers offering cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets targeting the Philippine audience to present proof of their registration and/or license to operate in the country. 

Starting on July 7 this year, the new regulation measures by SEC and Google is part of the commission’s regulatory compliance from entities doing business online in order to protect the investing public and other financial consumers. 

Furthermore, its also adds to Google’s existing policy that requires all advertisers to comply with local laws for any area that their advertisements target. Google will take appropriate action to address any violations.

Emilio B. Aquino, chairperson at SEC, said, “This continuing partnership with Google will help the Commission fulfill its mandate as registrar and overseer of the Philippine corporate sector, as well as protector of the investing public, in the digital age.”

The SEC has consistently reminded the public to be vigilant and exercise due diligence before transacting or dealing with any entity, and those based abroad without any registration or license to do business in the Philippines. 

It has also sought to educate the public on legitimate investment options through investor protection and financial literacy campaigns online. Over the course of the pandemic, the commission has observed that several entities have taken advantage of the online space to spread investment scams supposedly engaged in cryptocurrency trading when in reality, these do not exist.

“We believe the new policy can reduce the number of Filipinos falling prey to unregistered investment schemes online, who are usually victims of aggressive online advertising and intrusive tactics that make them believe in products that are often too good to be true,” Aquino stated.

As the national government regulatory agency tasked with supervising the corporate sector, entities doing business in the Philippines must first register with the SEC, in general. Meanwhile, operators of cryptocurrency exchanges must register with the BSP as remittance and transfer companies, pursuant to BSP Circular No. 944 issued February 6, 2017. 

Discussions with Google PH started in 2019 to counter the increase of unregistered personal loan apps in the country. This year, Google has revised its policy for personal loan apps targeting users in the Philippines, requiring them to submit a Personal Loan App Declaration and other necessary documents before they could publish apps on Google Play. Failure to provide such documents will lead to the personal loan app’s removal from Google Play.

Bangkok, Thailand – ​The Bank of Thailand (BOT), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Ministry of Finance (MOF) have released a joint statement regarding implementation of regulations on the use of cryptocurrencies as mode of payment for goods and services.

In a joint statement, they stated that the regulations are meant to avert potential impacts on the country’s financial stability and economic system.

“This may result in a wider adoption of digital assets as a means of payment, aside from its usage as investment, which could potentially impact financial stability and the overall economic system. The use of digital assets in this manner could also pose further risks to consumers and businesses through price volatility, cybertheft, personal data leakage, or money laundering,” according to the statement.

Furthermore, added regulatory guidelines will be issued for certain digital assets that are supportive of the financial system and financial innovation while not posing systemic risks. Feedback from relevant stakeholders and the general public will be taken into consideration to determine the appropriate regulatory frameworks.

For Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, governor of the BOT, the central bank takes into consideration both the risks and benefits of digital assets, including the underpinning technologies. 

“At present, widespread adoption of digital assets as a means of payment for goods and services poses risk to the country’s economic and financial system. Therefore, clear supervision of such activity is needed. However, technologies and digital assets that do not pose such risks should be supported with appropriate regulatory frameworks to drive innovation and further benefit for the public,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol, secretary-general of SEC, states that the SEC, as the regulator for digital asset business operators, has a policy to promote the development of digital asset businesses alongside consumer protection and places emphasis on utilizing digital assets to develop the country’s economy and society. 

“After discussion with the BOT and MOF, the SEC has conducted a public hearing regarding the guidelines for using digital assets as a means of payment for goods and services” to determine the appropriate frameworks in due course,” she added.

Mumbai, India – With the aim of helping brands create more responsible advertising practices for their upcoming campaigns, advertising regulatory body Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has launched a new service called ‘Advertising Service’ which gives brands non-binding advice, at a pre-production stage, on advertising claims and depictions to further mitigate the risk of ads being misleading, offensive, unfair or unsafe.

Said service, which will be available for all members and non-members of ASCI, and will be under a paid service.

Part of the objective that ASCI holds with the launch of this new service is that aside from being a regulatory body, they also aim to help protect consumers from objectionable ads. . They also added that the service provides confidential quick expertise to help advertisers make more responsible advertising, which in turn, saves them effort, money as well as possible loss of reputation once the advertisement is already in the marketplace.

In addition, ‘Advertising Service’ aims to help advertisers balance creativity with responsibility and is being offered in line with best global practices followed by different self-regulatory organizations.

“What is quite unique in the ASCI Advertising Advice service is that the Advertising Advice panel will also include technical experts in different specialties who can examine the claim and evidence for technical claim support. It is important to note that this service is not intended to be a pre-clearance, and advertisers may use the advice to better their ads in a manner they deem fit,” the regulatory board said in a press statement.

The service, while provided by the body’s technical team and subject experts, is not a pre-clearance of the advertisement, and neither is it a guarantee against complaints being filed by consumers. However, the service is expected to mitigate the risk of advertising being misleading, offensive, unsafe, or unfair. 

“ASCI will process any complaints they receive against such ads as per its normal process. The advisory panel for Advertising Advice service is completely different from the complaints process to avoid any potential conflicts,” they added.

For Subhash Kamath, chairman at ASCi, the newly-launched service as a crucial element in the cause of self-regulation pushed the body, adding that the service gives brands a chance to better prepare their campaigns and mitigate reputational risks.

“While there is no guarantee that consumers will not raise a claim against a brand, the advisory does help brands take steps to ensure that their campaigns don’t violate any norms formulated to protect consumer interest. We believe that this advisory service will provide the necessary support to the advertising ecosystem to create more responsible ads without affecting creativity,” Kamath stated.

Meanwhile, Manisha Kapoor, secretary-general at ASCI, commented that the advisory can be used by brands to great effect while planning their campaigns as brands wish to be competitive and push the boundaries of claims. She also added that with this service, they can support advertisers to make strong claims while not crossing the all-important lines of honesty, decency, fairness, and safety.

“An external scrutiny by experts at the pre-production stage can add tremendous value to campaign development. [In the] post-release of the campaign, any stoppage can cause significant disruption and cost for an organization. But by making this a part of the way advertisers think of campaigns at an early stage, such risks can be mitigated. We see this as a win-win for advertisers and consumers, who then get exposed to fewer problematic ads,” Kapoor added.

ASCI has long been helping advertisers with proper regulations about advertisements, which included their draft guidelines on influencer ads, and COVID-19 related campaigns.

Mumbai, India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released Monday, draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media.

The guidelines were established by the regulatory body in response to the surging influencer marketing in the country, and the tendencies following naturally of influencers and marketers to insufficiently identify and distinguish that a digital content is promotional.

According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India’s influencer market is estimated at US$75M to US$150M a year as compared to the global market of $1.75B, and ASCI foresees that such medium is poised to increase further in practice as more Indians go online.

ASCI said that when influencers fail to properly identify promotional content, the non-disclosure is misleading, and therefore a disservice to consumers.

The council’s draft guidelines consist of 10 pointers. The direction mainly guides influencers and marketers on how a disclosure label should rightly appear, and where it must be properly placed within a content to achieve the transparency for audiences and consumers. 

ASCI said that branded and promotional content must be obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content. It is not enough that advertisers label the content but that disclosure labels must be from the approved specifications. 

The reason for this is that some consumers may not be familiarized by the creative ways influencers and advertisers choose to deliver disclosure labels, and therefore labels that are not able to follow the approved specifics will not be considered adequate. Examples of these advertisements are paid music promotion in a video or a promotion of a store or a brand through a post on the influencers’ media handle. 

ASCI said the disclosure label must be upfront, such that it should be within the first two lines of accompanying copy in any given platform, not needing to click ‘see more’ or scroll further to see details. It should also be prominently placed, appropriate for the channel, and suitable for all potential devices, meaning the label is visible regardless of what channel, platform, and device is used. 

The disclosure label must also be in English or translated into the language of the ad in a way that will be well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the ad. ASCI also said that blanket disclosures, those that are put in the profile, ‘bio’ and ‘about’ sections of brands and influencers’ social media accounts will not be considered adequate. 

The council has also specified that in instances where an ad is only a posted image such as in Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture and that it must be seen clearly by an average viewer. The same goes with videos, where in cases that the promotional video content does not carry any text, the disclosure label should be superimposed. 

In regards to the video’s length, ASCI has also given a direction. For example, for videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 2 seconds, while for those that are longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label must stay for one-third the length of the video. Meanwhile, for videos that are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features and benefits are mentioned. 

With audio media, on the other hand, the statement must be clearly announced both at the beginning and at the end of the audio. In addition for social media ads, the council also prohibits filters applied to these types of ads, especially if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making, such as shinier hair or whiter teeth. 

It is also expected that the influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as ‘twice as better’, or ‘effect lasts for 1 month’, or the ‘fastest speed’, among others. Due diligence can be verified through correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the ad is with scientific substantiation. 

With the said guidelines, ASCI recommends that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carry such presented clauses pertaining to the disclosure label, use of filters as well as due diligence. 

The guidelines will be available for all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers for feedback until 8 March, 2021. Based on the feedback and inputs, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by 31 March, 2021, and will be applicable to all promotional posts that are published on or after 15th April 2021.

Subhash Kamath, Chairman of ASCI, said that Digital is no longer a niche and that consumers have the right to easily recognize promotional content. 

“The guidelines will help consumers identify promotional content and also guide digital influencers. We look forward to feedback from industry stakeholders, including more influencers, which would help us make the digital space more responsible for all,” said Kamath. 

The guidelines were a collaborative effort with influencers. ASCI teamed up with BigBang.Social, a marketplace for social storytelling, to get India’s leading digital influencers’ views on board.

Dhruv Chitgopekar, CEO of BigBang.Social, said, “We realized the need for a responsible advertising ecosystem in place for influencers; promoting ethical practices, fair & transparent expression. These guidelines will benefit consumers and digital influencers. We firmly believe it is essential for digital advertising platforms too. We are delighted to partner with a self-regulatory body that wants to be inclusive of all stakeholders.”

ASCI’s draft guideines on influencer ads also provides a ready reckoner on disclosure lables for each specific social media platform.