Every good business that hopes to conquer the web knows that the key to succeeding on the World Wide Web is to implement a strong internet marketing strategy.
Yet who determines what is allowed and appropriate? Who regulates it?
As a business it is important that you take the time to not only recognise who regulates internet marketing, but what rules are in place that govern them.
Below we have compiled everything you need to know about internet marketing regulations and who you have to answer to.
Who’s in charge?
ASA are a UK independent regulator who monitor everything that is advertised across the media. They achieve this by judging ads against the UK’s Advertising codes (written by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice); acting on complaints and by proactively checking the media for any forms of misleading/harmful/offensive advertisements, promotions and direct marketing, before taking action.
Examples (as deemed by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations):
- Can’t lead or harness consumers
- Cannot include false or deceptive messages
- Must not use aggressive sale techniques
- When advertising to businesses, you cannot make misleading comparisons with competitors that include using competitor’s logos/trademarks or comparing your product to a competitors when they are not the same.
Any ad that is deemed in breach of these advertising codes has to be immediately withdrawn or amended, or advertisers will face penalties.
As well as acting on complaints, ASA strives to help businesses to get their ads right by working alongside CAP to provide them with guidance, pre-publication advice and training.
This achieved by completing the following steps:
- Step one: all claims must be substantiated before being published. This includes providing accurate descriptions of products/services that are legal, decent, truthful, honest and that are socially responsible. Certain products have specific requirements that businesses must adhere to. For instance, if your business sells food, alcohol, beauty products, medicines, tobacco or are environmentally friendly, then your descriptions must be accurate and fall within description boundaries i.e. to use the phrase ‘low in alcohol’ it must contain between 0.5% and 1.2% of alcohol per volume.
- Step two: with more than 100 million pieces of directing marketing published every year, it is impossible for the ASA to pre-clear them all. That is why they offer CAP Advice and Training to help guide businesses through what is and isn’t acceptable.
- Non-broadcast Media (print, online, sales and directing marketing) – the code specifies a set of standards for ‘accuracy and honesty’ that businesses must stick to. These includes the following specific conditions – advertising to children, causing offence and political advertising.
- Directing Marketing – consumers must be given the chance to object (opt-out) to being sent emails, post or being called. Similarly, they must give their permission for you to collect their details; send them offers and share their information with other parties. If they have given you permission to email, you must clearly indicate in the email: who you are, what you are selling, what the promotions is and if there are any conditions.
- Step three: whilst tonnes of precautions are taken to keep ads inline, customers are encouraged to complain if they see an ad that is misleading or harmful (within 3 months of seeing the ad) as the ASA is able to act and implement penalties/sanctions after only one complains.
Penalties include: your CAP membership trading privileges being removed or you being reported to the local Trading Standards office/ Ofcom where you will be fined, prosecuted or even imprisoned.
Other things to bear in mind:
- Data Protection – if your goal is to gather, store or use information about existing or prospective clients, you must protect their data (Data Protection Act of 1998).
As you can see there is a lot to consider when it comes to marketing your product. So if you’re interested in utilising internet marketing for your business, we recommend bearing the above rules in mind, but also visiting the ASA website.
Do that and you can safeguard your advertisements, content and promotions.