By John Plunkett: Marketing messages that appear on company websites and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter are to be subject to the same regulations as adverts that appear on television, newspapers or other media.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said today the online extension had the “protection of children and consumers at its heart”. The move was in response to more than 4,500 complaints the ASA had received about online ads but which it had been unable to deal with because they fell outside its remit.
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.
The watchdog, which enforces rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children, already regulates paid-for adverts online.
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.
Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary who is chairman of the ASA, said: “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart.
“We have received more than 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from 1 March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to 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”.
The CAP chairman, Andrew Brown, said: “Extending the online remit of the ASA has been a top priority for UK industry over the last couple of years.
“Our aim has been to extend further in the online world the principles that are already well established in our system, namely those of effective consumer protection and fair competition.”
This article originally appeared in Â© Guardian News & Media Ltd..