The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said that it isn't discussing changing its guidelines on crypto advertisements, clearing the air on its position as an important stakeholder on a suggested ban on Indian celebrities endorsing crypto products.
India's Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had suggested that no prominent public figures, including celebrities and famous athletes, should endorse crypto products and that an ad disclosure should also talk about possible violations of existing laws, according to a report by the Hindu Business Line.
SEBI submitted a written report of its views to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, the newspaper's report said.
"This appears to be the view of SEBI in ongoing discussions within the government," said Manisha Kapoor, the ad council's CEO.
"ASCI has a specific guideline on celebrities. Plus, there is a clause in the crypto guidelines as well. We have always maintained that celebrities need to do their due diligence on the claims they endorse. And the Consumer Protection Act, too, lays down penalties for endorsers in case the [ad] they feature in is found misleading, and if they have done no due diligence. Endorsers may not have domain expertise, but they must take the effort to do due diligence as part of their responsibilities," Kapoor said.
ASCI doesn't have the authority to ban celebrities from endorsing any products. That authority rests with the government alone. The group's guidelines, however, are considered a blueprint to follow to protect Indian consumers' interests in the interest of self-regulation in advertising.
"ASCI needs celebrities to be careful. Since banning or not is not in our preview, it’s not a stance ASCI can take or has taken," Kapoor said.
While the government may be evaluating the possibility of imposing a ban, it may not be realistic and could potentially be challenged, a source familiar with the matter told CoinDesk.
Late last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a meeting to consider regulations for cryptocurrencies. According to reports, a strong consensus was reached to stop "attempts to mislead the youth through over-promising and non-transparent advertising."
In February, ASCI released fresh guidelines to require crypto ads to carry disclaimers. The guidelines became effective on April 1.
Under India's Consumer Protection Act, celebrities can be fined up to $13,000 for a false or misleading ad in the first instance and $65,000 for additional violations, with the possibility of a complete ban on endorsing any product for up to three years.
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