UK advertising watchdog promotes new online powers

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Asa Advertising Marketing

The ASA may be visiting a website near you soon...
The ASA may be visiting a website near you soon...
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched a six-week campaign to educate industry and consumers about its new remit to police online communications such as corporate website messaging and social networking sites.

The ASA announced the measures last September. They will become effective from March 1, 2011.

The outdoor, radio, press and online campaign will convey the requirement that messaging is, “legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

Businesses are also encouraged to visit a help and advice​ page to help them comply with the Committee of Advertising Code. (CAP).

Level playing field

“The extension of the ASA’s online remit is widely recognised by stakeholders as an enhancement of the protections already provided by the self-regulatory system, particularly for children and vulnerable consumers,”​ the ASA said. “It also ensures a level playing field for marketing claims in line with the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business.”

The ASA acknowledged industry support in developing the campaign and new remit as well as media groups that are providing the ad space and air space for the campaign to run.

Online health claims

A recent scan of corporate websites and social networking tools conducted by NutraIngredients reveals a plethora of messages that contravene EU health claim laws.

Owen Warnock, food law partner at UK firm Eversheds, said food and supplements companies needed to critically assess their messaging or risk ASA action and the concomitant bad publicity that is a likely consequence.

“Websites carrying material in breach of the EU nutrition and health claims regulation are likely to be the subject of industry and consumer complaints,” ​Warnock said this morning.

“Nearly all food businesses have websites and so any sensible company should take a serious look at whether they comply with the CAP code.”

The ASA has received 4500 complaints about online marketing since 2008 which it has not been able to process due to the previous restriction in its activities.

Search engine support and sanctioning

Two potential sanctions have been proposed against those players that fail to comply with its rulings:

  • Removal of paid-for search advertising – ads that link to the page hosting the non-compliant marketing communication may be removed with the agreement of the search engines.
  • ASA paid-for search advertisements - the ASA could place advertisements online highlighting an advertiser‟s continued non-compliance.

Search behemoth Google has donated £200,000 (€240,000) in seed capital for the project and the industry through online search and media agencies have agreed to donate 0.1 per cent of its search advertising spend to fund the ASA expansion – expected to raise another £700,000 (€841,000).

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