Airtel accuses Reliance Jio of making false claims in ad, moves ASCI

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Airtel accuses Reliance Jio of making false claims in ad, moves ASCI


ASCI observed that data consumption cannot be the only parameter for claims that Reliance Jio was the largest mobile data network. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

ASCI observed that data consumption cannot be the only parameter for claims that Reliance Jio was the largest mobile data network. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd has approached the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), accusing Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd of making false and misleading claims in its latest advertisement. ASCI has upheld the complaint.

This is the latest round in the war of words between the two telecom operators.

Since Reliance Jio’s entry, the two operators have locked horns over network testing norms, provision of points of interconnect, the cut in interconnect usage charges and advertisements. Last month, Bharti Airtel had moved the fast-track complaints panel of the council alleging that Reliance Jio, in its latest advertisement starring actor Deepika Padukone, had falsely claimed that it was the “best network and the world’s largest mobile data network”, besides offering “best entertainment” and “best postpaid offers”.

The claims, Airtel argued, were unsubstantiated and there was no clarification or independent third-party data to back them. Moreover, since these claims were made without any supporting evidence or disclaimers, the advertisement violated ASCI guidelines, Airtel said in the complaint.

The panel, after concluding a personal hearing with Reliance Jio, observed that Reliance Jio may carry the largest quantum of data consumed by subscribers globally, but data consumption cannot be the only parameter for claims that it was the largest mobile data network. It said infrastructure as well as the number of subscribers are also important parameters and, therefore, Reliance Jio’s claim of “best network and world’s largest mobile data network” is misleading by ambiguity.

Mint has reviewed a copy of the panel’s recommendation as well as Airtel’s complaint to the panel. “The panel is also not in agreement with a blanket claim of the advertiser’s (Reliance Jio’s) offers being the best postpaid offers since it is not clear what aspects of the advertiser’s product are being compared with that of the competitor’s product,” ASCI said in the letter. The panel also said Reliance Jio’s self-proclaimed claim of “best entertainment” was not substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity.

A Reliance Jio spokesperson said, “The allegations made by the incumbent dominant operator are thoroughly frivolous and have been made only to distract others. This specific matter is currently under discussion with the ASCI. We believe that the recommendations at this stage do not reflect the submissions made, and the favourable views expressed by the ASCI during the course of discussions. We have followed up with further submissions and clarifications so that the right decision is made.”

It is likely that ASCI and Reliance Jio will meet again on 18 June, a person aware of the matter said, requesting anonymity.

This is not the first such controversy on advertisements between the two telecom operators. In March 2017, Reliance Jio accused Bharti Airtel of airing misleading ads on network data speed and ASCI, after investigating the matter, asked Airtel to withdraw the advertisement. Reliance Jio moved the metropolitan magistrate’s court after Airtel advertisements started appearing again in June, but in August the court dismissed its plea.



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