The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has had its remit extended to cover online marketing advertisements, including those made on social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter. New editions of the CAP code, relating to non-broadcast advertising, and the BCAP code, relating to broadcast advertising, came into effect on 1 September and online advertisers have until 1 March 2011 to ensure they are complying with the rules.
The move is in response to over 3,500 complaints which the ASA received in 2009, over half of which it deemed to be outside its remit. The new rules will be targeted at advertisements selling products and services and requests for donations, but will not deal with journalistic or editorial content. Approximately three quarters of the complaints received by the ASA relate to misleading content and the new rules place special emphasis on the protection of children and other vulnerable people from harm. Google has decided to assist the ASA by contributing GBP200,000 towards the costs associated with extending its remit.
The ASA will be empowered to force the removal of links to advertisements which do not comply with its codes. It will also be able to publish details of advertisers breaching the code on its website and to place its own advertisements which highlight an advertiser’s continued refusal to abide by its rulings.
The ASA is hoping that these powers will persuade advertisers to comply. However, it will face considerable difficulty in ensuring compliance with the codes where a website is hosted abroad or where it is unable to identify the advertiser.