It’s our website, we can say what we like, can’t we?

Unfortunately not. 

From 1 March 2011 the Advertising Standards Agency ("ASA") will regulate advertising on a company's own website and on any third party website over which a company has control.

ASA rules require that marketing communications should be "legal, decent, honest and truthful". 

In particular the rules require that website advertising must not materially mislead or be likely to do so and focuses on the use of exaggerated claims and hidden or ambiguous information in advertising. 

By way of an example of how the rules regulate sector specific advertising, the rules provide that an advert for a car must not use speed or acceleration as the main message or use the advertisement of fuel or accessories in a way that can be interpreted as encouraging or condoning anti social behaviour. 

Accordingly, when designing an advertisement, a company must be careful to consider the implications and likely interpretations of its advertisement as well as its content. 

Impact on your company? 
As well as the criminal and civil sanctions available to the courts in prosecutions and proceedings brought pursuant to the Consumer Protections from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, ASA has its own investigatory powers.

ASA can direct a company to alter or fully withdraw a marketing campaign or advertisement based on breaches of the rules which can result in a substantial waste of advertising costs. When ASA directs that a breach of the rules has occurred, the decision is published on its website which can, of course, be damaging to the advertiser's commercial reputation. Multiple breaches by one company are likely to lead to a prosecution with the potential for substantial fines (measured in thousands of pounds rather than hundreds). 

The clear message to companies is be aware of ASA, its rules and the impact on marketing activities.

For more information please contact Jennifer Sewell from Rollits Regulatory Group on 01482 337368, email jennifer.sewell@rollits.com

Posted on: 28/01/2011

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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