Thursday, April 09, 2015

What happened when I complained to Advertising Standards Council India about Honda Mobilio Ad?

Two months ago, I noticed a misleading print ad by Honda Mobilio and wrote a post about it explaining why the advertisement is not factual. [Read the post here]

S Senthil Kumar wrote a comment suggesting that I complain to Advertising Standards Council Of India (ASCI) in this regard. I thought why NOT and on their website (, registered a complaint. In my complaint was that it is not possible to reach Bengaluru from Chennai with Rs 716 and bus tickets are much cheaper than what's specified in the ad. This was on 12th Feb.

Feb 12: After I file the complaint on ASCI website, I get an automated acknowledgment.

Feb 18: I get  a mail stating my complaint has been received.

March 10, 2015: I receive an email that my complaint has been processed and a copy of my complaint has been sent to the advertiser for an explanation.

April 8, 2015: I receive an email that my complaint has not been upheld in their review meeting. Below is the exact text of the response I got from ASCI.

Dear Hande,
Re: Decision – C.xxxx– Your complaint against the advertisement Honda Cars India Ltd(*) (Honda Mobilio)----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The complaint was considered by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at their meeting.
As per their decision, the complaint has NOT BEEN  UPHELD. The CCC viewed the print advertisement and considered the Advertiser’s response. The CCC concluded that the claim, “One passenger cost in AC Bus: R.999, A family of 7 in Mobilio Rs.716”, is not misleading.

Thank you for having referred this complaint to us.
Assuring you of our services in the pursuit of Self-Regulation in Advertising.
Yours faithfully,

While I am happy to know that there seemed to be some process to accept complaints and evaluate them, what is surprising is the way complaint is dismissed without adequate due diligence or explanation. For example, I do not know what is Honda's response to this. Or how they justified the numbers used in the advertisement or on what rationale/basis ASCI decided that my complaint is incorrect?. I could have been given a copy of their response and given an opportunity to present my view on the response. There was no such thing. Above mail doesn't have a single word about the ad other than what I had originally provided in the complaint.

So if you’ve decided to buy a Mobilio and go to Bangalore with 7 people, empty tank and only Rs 716 in hand for your journey, god bless you. If you put all that money to buy diesel, you’ll not be able to go beyond Kanchipuram where you’ve to cross first toll booth. Assuming you keep some of that money for toll, you’ll be exhausted somewhere between Vellore and Krishnagiri with either diesel or toll money running out. If you put all that money into diesel and spend extra from your pocket on toll, you will probably reach till Hosur before the tank runs dry. (assuming seven light weight people without heavy bags, being driven without AC and in a most fuel efficient way)

Disclaimer: I’ve nothing against Honda cars. Just that when I saw their above ad I felt uncomfortable as numbers were far from true. Then a reader commented about the complaint mechanism that exists, I decided to give it a try. I got SMS and email at regular intervals about my complaint, so the system they have seems fine. But the way complaint is closed, without offering any explanation or answers implies they are not taking enough effort to do a thorough investigation of facts and figures before closing a complaint.

Update: I also sent a mail to ASCI asking for a copy of Honda's response. No reply yet.

Update: May 17th. More than a month and I haven't got a reply from ASCI, despite an intervention from Sucheta Dalal.

So I assume the following:
  • According to ASCI it is ok to inflate bus ticket fare 40-50% in ads where it suits 
  • According to ASCI it is ok to project that mileage derived in standard test condition is valid when car is fully loaded with people n luggage and driven with AC
  • According to ASCI it is ok to hide some cost component like toll expense while drawing comparison


Anu Menon said...

What do the two stars next to the amount indicating? I mean what is the fine print?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Fine print says toll not included...

Why should it not be included?

Also the certified mileage is probably valid under standard test conditions for one passenger, can't be applied for 8 people with bags and AC

Anu Menon said...

Shrinidhi. You will have to fight every single ad in the world at this rate. Atleast give some credit to the consumers - we are a little more smart than believing blind numbers on an ad.
very misleading isnt it? Well thats just one example. I am just saying that your complaint isn't justified. All mileages are in the best conditions only.
Also i doubt ANYBODY is going to buy this car based on this ad. Of course they know the initial cost involved in buying the car.

Anu Menon said...

Also toll charges are subject to change - so them mentioning clearly that it is not included is actually a decent thing to do. Plus the toll is per car/vehicle not per person.

Anu Menon said...

Probably spending too much time on this post but funnily enough I actually have something to say. Owning a car in India is still a matter of comfort/luxury and not a necessity yet.
If I compare the benefits of a car vs a bus I could point out a few things:
1) If I have to make a trip on an emergency I dont have to be dependent on bus timings, availability etc. Taking a car would still mean cheaper than a flight/train for short trips.
2) I can make the trip any time of the day.
3) I can take multiple breaks where ever I want - especially when I have elders travelling who need the break to stretch their legs.
4) I can take multiple trips as many times as I want regardless of availability of tickets.
5) If I want to cut short my trip I dont have to worry about cancelling tickets and losing money in the process. I can simply get everyone in the car and drive away...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Appreciate your detailed reply.

On your first comment, yes, consumers are smart- no one will buy this car because of this ad. I wasn't intending to fight every ad.. Having traveled between the 2 cities in all modes of transportation, I wanted to highlight that numbers are exaggerated. W.r.t ASCI, I wasn't expecting any miracles from them, but wanted to know their process and how seriously they pursue a complaint.

On second comment, even diesel prices change. They could have factored current toll charges as known.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

On the third comment, very valid points. Having a car has its advantages for sure. That is why I usually rent a car, wherein I get most of these advantages, and not necessarily buy a car.


It raises serious questions over the functioning of advertising standards council of india.with so many facts they are not convinced means ,what is that they are actually expecting?god knows how they operate.nowadays iam not seeing this ad that much ,may be honda would have taken a call on this after your complaint,that itself is a victory
job well done.

The wild said...

@anu menon i agree with your fourth post -list of five points

@enidhi-This process is a total hogwash -what has happened in this case.You should be allowed to represent your case .Even if they dont give your all details of honda's response -you should be allowed to hear them when they represent themselves.

There is no process here ,you are just assuming there is one.

I also thought instead of the consumer council ideally you should have complained to advertisement standards authority ,generally its a govt body ,not too sure if one exists in India

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Anu Menon : Also the advertiser could have used one or more of your points to stress the benefits of mobilio. In this one they took a wrong USP

@The Wild: That is a good possibility. May be we should file a dummy complaint with text "enidhi is a very good fellow" and after 2 months, we might get a mail "Your complaint- enidhi is a very good fellow- is not withheld" without adding any other word or indicating that complaint is not making any sense.

@Senthil Kumar: Thanks for the comment. Not a single extra word is added, only my own text returned to me with statement it is not upheld... I will ask them to forward Honda's response to me and see what happens

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have sent your feedback to ASCI. All i can say is that there is a proper process followed. And I am sure there was a justification -- it would not have been rejected otherwise.
The committee may want to think through the communication. But I can vouch for the fact that the process is transparent.

The point is about the policy about the detail in which it is conveyed to the complainant. I am sure you will hear from ASCI on this.
Sucheta Dalal

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Appreciate your response and action Sucheta Dalal.. Waiting for the response