UK ’s Advertising Standards Authority gets power to monitor website text

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

LONDON - Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been given the power to monitor claims made by companies on various websites and social networks from March 1.

Earlier, the ASA had the power to monitor only paid-for ads online, but now, with its new powers it will tackle complaints about the way companies sell themselves on the web.

The new rules will cover statements on sites that can be interpreted as marketing, even if they are not in an advert.

ASA has received over 4,500 complaints since 2008, concerning text on websites.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker told the BBC: “These are claims that are very similar to the claims that [the public] are used to seeing in adverts that appear in media like TV, radio, posters and print,”

The extension of the UK advertising code will ensure that ads are legal and decent and not harming or offending anyone.

The ASA will primarily aim at sites that use the ‘’ domain suffix and could also cover ‘.com’ sites such as Facebook, if a UK firm controls the online space used by the websites.

According to Vincent-Wayne Mitchell, a professor of consumer marketing at London’s Cass Business School, the transient nature of the online content may become a problem in implementing the rules.

He said: “I could have an advert up on the internet for a week or for an hour, cause widespread confusion, get sales from that, and then withdraw it.”

He further added, “The only punishment that the ASA has is withdrawal, but I can have that as part of my own marketing strategy.”

The comments made by the customers and other user generated content on the website will not be included under the new rules.

However, the ASA said that such content could be examined if a company adopted it and used positive endorsements to advertise.

The ASA also said that it would extend a name-and-shame policy to expose the firms that make unsupportable claim.

It further said that it might also take out adverts to warn people about companies that do not comply with the advertising code.

The ASA has also increased the number of staff in its complaints and investigations unit by 10 percent. (ANI)

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