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ASA to investigate your website

1 September 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today announced that it will be extending its remit to cover marketing communications which appear on businesses’ own websites. Previously, the ASA’s online coverage only extended to paid-for adverts. The change will come into force on 1 March 2011.

This is a significant change, as it brings a large amount of new material into the ASA’s territory. The ASA will now have the power to, for instance, examine claims made about your product on your website, and pronounce that they are misleading, or socially irresponsible. The ASA would then require that such claims not be made again. Businesses which operate primarily online through their own website could find themselves subject to ASA investigation for the first time.

An adverse ASA adjudication can produce a great deal of negative publicity, and in addition the ASA have decided that they may in future place their own advertisements online, to be found by search engines, to name and shame advertisers who refuse to comply with their rulings. For this reason your competitors may look to instigate a complaint if they feel there is misleading information on your website. Businesses should take the opportunity now to submit their website’s content for review, to avoid the risk of a complaint.

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