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The ASA extends its reach online

11 March 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority can require that adverts deemed to be misleading, unfair or offensive, are not to be repeated. But with the expansion of digital media, a noticeable gap in the ASA’s jurisdiction has emerged – the ASA only adjudicates on complaints relating to paid-for advertising.  

Now this gap is to be plugged. The Advertising Association has recommended that the ASA’s remit be extended to cover marketing communications on companies’ own websites. It means that website owners will now need to review their own websites’ content to ensure that they can prove that they comply with the CAP codes.

Key provisions from the Code include that:

  1. marketers must hold evidence to substantiate their claims
  2. marketers should ensure that prices are clear and match the products illustrated
  3. special care should be taken when products intended for adults may fall into the hands of children
  4. claims comparing your products to your competitor’s products are subject to strict conditions.

If the recommendation is adopted, these changes could come into effect from September 2010.

With advertising in digital media becoming increasingly dominant in the marketplace, this was an obvious decision to make. Our immediate thoughts are: will businesses seek to use this to their advantage by complaining about their competitor’s websites? And what implications will this have on the use of user-generated content in marketing?

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