From today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK extends its powers to regulating companies who advertise on the Internet including social networking platforms. The move means ads on social media sites will have to comply with the same code of conduct as traditional media, following a new industry-wide initiative.
The move has been designed to help increase protection for consumers and children, by holding online ads accountable for being honest and responsible. This code is designed to ensure that the marketing industry adopts the same self-regulatory standards for all marketing communications on the internet as it does across traditional marketing channels.
Previously, complaints made about marketing communications on social media sites, including blogs, social networks and company websites, are not covered by the CAP Code. All other marketing communications activity in paid-for space online – such as search marketing and display advertising – is already within the ASA’s remit and subject to the CAP Code.
The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It works to ensure ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful by applying the Advertising Codes.
For a beginning, ASA has been advised by the Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) to ban the advertising of broadband speeds that have the prefix “up to.”
The CCP had warned the ASA last week that “the current approach of advertising ‘up to’ broadband headline speeds is no longer credible or sustainable, and is causing widespread scepticism amongst consumers.”
The alternative being suggested by the CCP is to have the minimum speed experienced by at least half of an ISP’s customers. The consumer panel is also considering a ban on the use of the word “unlimited” in mobile and fixed-line data advertising.
Since 2008, the ASA has reportedly received more than 4,500 complaints, but could not act on those. Now, though the ASA will primarily aim at sites using the .co.uk domain suffix, its ambit could also cover .com sites if the online space being used was under the control of a UK company.
User-generated content, such as user comments, does not fall under the new codes, but the ASA could take action if a company adopted such content.
The ASA would extend a name-and-shame policy to encourage firms to comply with new rules. The watchdog might also take out adverts to warn people about companies that do not comply with the code.