Prohibited and controlled advertising in India (2024)

Prohibited and controlled advertising

Prohibited products and services

What products and services may not be advertised?

Products and services that may not be advertised are the following:

  • tobacco, under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act;
  • alcoholic beverages, under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill;
  • human organs, under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994;
  • magical remedies, under the Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisem*nts) Act 1954;
  • for prenatal determination of sex, under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act 1994;
  • prize chits and money circulation schemes, under the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act 1978;
  • physicians, under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations; and
  • legal services, under the Bar Council of India Rules, formulated under the Advocates Act.

Prohibited advertising methods

Are certain advertising methods prohibited?

While there are no laws defining subliminal advertising or restricting such practice, misleading advertisem*nts are banned.

Protection of minors

What are the rules for advertising as regards minors and their protection?

According to the ASCI Code, advertisem*nts addressed to minors shall not contain anything, whether in illustration or otherwise, that might result in their physical, mental or moral harm, or that exploits their vulnerability. For example, advertisem*nts may not feature minors promoting tobacco or alcohol-based products; show minors using or playing with matches or any inflammable or explosive substances; or show minors playing with or using sharp knives or guns, the careless use of which could lead to cuts, burns, shocks or other injuries.

Credit and financial products

Are there special rules for advertising credit or financial products?

With specific reference to advertisem*nts of financial products and services, the ASCI Code states that:

advertisem*nts inviting the public to invest money shall not contain statements which may mislead the consumer in respect of the security offered, rates of return or terms of amortisation; where any of the foregoing elements are contingent upon the continuance of or change in existing conditions, or any other assumption, such conditions or assumptions must be clearly indicated in the advertisem*nt.

According to the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines, banks should also not promote schemes for zero per cent interest finance schemes by publishing advertisem*nts in different newspapers and media indicating that they are promoting or financing consumers under such schemes. They should also refrain from linking their names in any form or manner with any incentive-based advertisem*nt where clarity regarding interest rates is absent.

Therapeutic goods and services

Are there special rules for claims made about therapeutic goods and services?

Under section 3 of the Drugs and Magical Remedies (Objectionable Advertisem*nts) Act, there are specific laws that prohibit the advertising of certain drugs for the treatment of certain diseases and disorders. The Act also prohibits any individual or company from claiming they can cure diseases. The Act states that, unless prescribed by a registered medical practitioner, no person or company shall take part in the publication of an advertisem*nt referring to any drug that claims to:

  • produce miscarriages in women or prevent conception;
  • maintain or improve capacity for sexual pleasure;
  • correct menstrual disorders in women; or
  • diagnose, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease specified in the Act.

Food and health

Are there special rules for claims about foodstuffs regarding health and nutrition, and weight control?

The Food Safety Standard Authority of India also checks many products for misleading adverts. Section 24 of the Foods Safety and Standards Act states that:

  • no advertisem*nt shall be made about any food that is misleading or deceptive or that contravenes the provisions of the Act; and
  • no person shall engage in any unfair trade practice for the purpose of promoting the sale, supply, use and consumption of articles of food or adopt any unfair or deceptive practice, including the practice of making any statement, whether orally, in writing or by visible representation, that:
    • falsely claims that the foods are of a particular standard, quality, quantity or grade composition;
    • makes a false or misleading representation concerning the need to consume the food; or
    • gives the public any guarantee of the food’s efficacy that is not based on adequate or scientific justification.


What are the rules for advertising alcoholic beverages?

Advertising alcoholic beverages has been banned in India as per the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, which came into effect on 8 September 2000. Private channels often permit alcohol companies to advertise using surrogate means, such as selling the brand name for soda or water or music.


What are the rules for advertising tobacco products?

According to clause 6 of the ASCI Code, tobacco products, alcohol and gambling are prohibited from being advertised. Advertisem*nts for these products are made indirectly sometimes by purporting to be advertisem*nts for other products. Indirect advertisem*nt for these products and services is prohibited.

Further, the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act prohibits advertisem*nt of such products per se.


Are there special rules for advertising gambling?

With specific reference to gambling, advertisem*nts for gambling in India are highly regulated on account of specific laws such as the Indian Contract Act 1872, the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998, the Public Gambling Act 1867 and the Indian Penal Code 1860. State governments have the power to promote or prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction.

Chapter III, Clause 6 of the ASCI states that an indirect advertisem*nt for gambling (gaming) services is prohibited.

In judging whether an advertisem*nt is an indirect advertisem*nt for a product that is prohibited, attention must be paid to the following:

  • the visual content of the advertisem*nt must depict only the product being advertised and not the prohibited or restricted product in any form or manner;
  • the advertisem*nt must not make any direct or indirect reference to the prohibited or restricted products; and
  • the advertisem*nt must not create any nuances or phrases promoting prohibited products.


What are the rules for advertising lotteries?

The Lotteries Act provides a framework for organising lotteries in the country. Under this Act, the state governments have been authorised to promote as well as prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also provides for the manner in which the lotteries are to be conducted and prescribes penalties in cases of breach of its provisions. Lotteries not authorised by the state have been made an offence under the Penal Code.

Promotional contests

What are the requirements for advertising and offering promotional contests?

Indian law does not prohibit sales promotions by advertisers. However, sales promotions must meet the requirements of the ASCI Code. By making no express bar to ‘sales promotions’, the ASCI advises that advertisem*nts shall not be framed so as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge. No advertisem*nt shall be permitted to contain any claim so exaggerated as to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. For example, as per the ASCI Code, advertisem*nts inviting the public to take part in lotteries or prize competitions permitted under law or that hold out the prospect of gifts shall state clearly all material conditions so as to enable consumers to obtain a true and fair view of their prospects in such activities.

Indirect marketing

Are there any restrictions on indirect marketing, such as commercial sponsorship of programmes and product placement?

There is no specific law in India that bars or governs product placement. The ASCI Code is also applicable to product placement. The Cable Television Network Rules, the Code for Commercial Advertising on Doordarshan and All India Radio and the Norms for Journalist Conduct issued by the Press Council of India, prohibit any advertisem*nt directly or indirectly promoting the production, sale or consumption of tobacco products, alcohol or other intoxicants. However, some states allow advertising through billboards, signboards, etc, but this is subject to many restrictions. Also, the ASCI Code prohibits the use of minors for advertising alcohol products. Products that are banned from advertising may not be used to provide any kind of sponsorship. Also, misleading representation of sponsorship is an unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act.

Other advertising rules

Briefly give details of any other notable special advertising regimes.

The ASCI does not accept and process complaints against political and non-commercial government advertising.

The ASCI’s self-regulation system is established as an industry initiative with the objective of regulating commercial communications (ie, advertising that directly or indirectly solicits the exchange of money for goods and services). The ASCI Code specifically states that ‘the code for self-regulation has been accepted by individuals, corporate bodies and associations engaged in or otherwise concerned with the practice of advertising in the best interests of the ultimate consumer’. Therefore, political and non-commercial government advertising attempting to influence voters does not come under the ambit of the ASCI.

It is important to the ASCI’s integrity that it is seen as an impartial adjudicator free from the perception of political bias. It is not possible to make decisions about whether a political or non-commercial government advertisem*nt breaches the Code without the potential to be seen as taking a political viewpoint.

The ASCI has mandates from industry associations such as the Indian Society of Advertisers, the Advertising Agencies Association India and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation representing India’s advertisers, advertising agencies and media to self-regulate advertising content. The ASCI currently has no mandate to regulate government or political advertising. Complainants need to be aware that the ASCI is an industry-funded body. It is inappropriate for the ASCI to assume jurisdiction over the content of political or government advertising in the absence of political parties’ or the government’s support for such advertising to be regulated by the ASCI.

The ASCI recommends that anyone with a complaint against a political advertisem*nt should write to the Election Commission of India. Complaints against a non-commercial, government-issued TV advertisem*nt should be made to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which is the regulator for TV content and press advertisem*nts, or to the Press Council of India, which is the regulator for print content.

Prohibited and controlled advertising in India (2024)


What is prohibited and controlled advertising in India? ›

According to clause 6 of the ASCI Code, tobacco products, alcohol and gambling are prohibited from being advertised. Advertisem*nts for these products are made indirectly sometimes by purporting to be advertisem*nts for other products. Indirect advertisem*nt for these products and services is prohibited.

Who controls advertising in India? ›

It's the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) who stand as key players. In its capacity as a self-regulatory body, ASCI is essential in establishing advertising standards.

Which form of advertisem*nt is prohibited? ›

Deceptive advertising is prohibited. In its Advertising FAQ's: A Guide for Small Business the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated 'it would be deceptive for marketers to embed ads with subliminal messages that could affect consumer behavior.

What are the guidelines for advertisem*nts in India? ›

ASCI seeks to ensure that advertisem*nts conform to its Code for Self-Regulation, which requires advertisem*nts to be legal, decent, honest and truthful, and not hazardous or harmful, while observing fairness in competition.

What classes of advertisem*nt prohibited under D and Mr Act? ›

– No person shall also take part in the publication of any advertisem*nt referring to any drug in terms which suggest or are calculated to lead to the use of that drug for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease, disorder, or condition specified in the Schedule annexed to these rules.

Can Drugs be advertised in India? ›

Thus in the light of combined reading of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940, Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945, Drugs and Magical Remedies (objectionable) Act 1954, advertisem*nt of all drugs are prohibited unless permitted by the central government, licensing authorities or exempted from the application of Drugs & Cosmetics ...

What is the role of advertising in India? ›

It played a pivotal role in shaping consumer preferences, creating brand awareness, and promoting various products and services. Advertisem*nts in newspapers also became a source of revenue for the newspapers themselves, helping them sustain their operations.

What is the advertising body of India? ›

In 1985, the Advertising Standards Council of India (“ASCI”), a non statutory tribunal, was established that created a self regulatory mechanism of ensuring ethical advertising practices. ASCI is a voluntary Self-regulation council.

Which type of advertising is most effective in India? ›

Influencer advertising is especially effective in India because it allows brands to tap into the power of social proof and word-of-mouth marketing, which are highly valued in Indian culture.

What is the definition of prohibited advertisem*nt? ›

Prohibited advertisem*nt means the advertisem*nt as specified in By-Law 13 and includes A-frame advertisem*nt, column sign, projecting sign and roof sign; Sample 1Sample 2.

What is unacceptable advertising? ›

Ads can't: Use deceptive or exaggerated claims about the success of a product or service to mislead someone into purchasing or sharing sensitive information. Use the image of a public figure and misleading tactics in order to bait people into engaging with an ad.

Which act prohibited false advertising? ›

Regulations of False Advertising

The federal Lanham Act allows civil lawsuits for false advertising that “misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin” of goods or services. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). The FTC also enforces false advertising laws on behalf of consumers.

Who has restricted lawyers in India from advertising themselves? ›

Bar Council of India Rules prohibit lawyers from advertising themselves, but that's not the case in other countries.

How much does it cost to shoot an advertisem*nt in India? ›

Rs. 80,000 per Ad Film (30-45 sec) Inclusive of Ideation, Concept, Script, Shoot, Edit & Animation.

Which Indian drug legislation has control over advertisem*nts? ›

The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisem*nts) Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India which controls advertising of drugs in India. It prohibits advertisem*nts of drugs and remedies that claim to have magical properties, and makes doing so a cognizable offence.

What are the prohibited advertisem*nt in jurisprudence? ›

Advertisem*nts relating to a drug if the advertisem*nt contains any matter which directly or indirectly gives a false impression regarding the true character of the drug or makes a false claim for the drug or is otherwise false or misleading is prohibited.

Is comparative advertising allowed in India? ›

Statutory provisions regarding comparative advertisem*nt

While the right to commercial speech, such as to compare products with those of competitors, by way of an advertisem*nt, is protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, such speech must not be disparaging/deprecatory in nature.


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