It means that online marketing and ads will, from 1 March 2011, be subject to the same strict advertising rules as traditional media. The Committee of Advertising Practice’s code for non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and direct mail is to apply to all marketing communication on companies’ websites and via social media platforms. This means that it gives the ASA the power to ban marketing statements on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Last year the body received over 4,500 complaints but over half of the adverts were outside of its remit as only paid-for marketing communications such as pop-up and banner ads, paid search and viral ads were covered.
Andy Burton, Chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum and Chief Executive of Fasthosts, stated “Under the new rules, which will come into effect on 1 March next year, the ASA will have the ability to demand the removal of paid-for links to pages hosting a banned ad. It will also be able to place its own online ads highlighting an advertiser’s continued refusal to comply with one of its rulings.”
“This is a vital step forward for the industry and it will mean that the consumer has greater protection due to increased transparency of online vendor website claims and advertising. No longer will the consumer be misled due to false claims and statements on websites or indeed untrue price comparison websites, helping them separate credible suppliers from opportunists,” he added.
“The ASA activity is aligned to our own belief that it is essential to build trust online by having transparency of online operations, as well as clarity of a vendors capability and accountability. This increases effective consumer protection and ensures fair competition, which are both goals we share at the Cloud Industry Forum,” he added.
The extra cost of its expanded remit will be met by an initial 200,000 contribution from Google and an extension of the 0.1% voluntary levy on paid-for advertisements that currently funds the ASA.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing the regulations, said it had decided to extend the ASA’s powers in response to a formal recommendation from a wide cross-section of UK industry.
New rules will focus on ads that sell products rather than journalistic and editorial content, in order to “protect the right to freedom of speech online”, said the ASA. They will apply to “all sectors and all businesses and organisations regardless of size”.