Changes to the ASA's handling of competitor complaints
22 November 2011
The ASA is changing its approach to handling competitor complaints.
From 1 December, advertisers making a complaint about another advertiser will be required to provide evidence that they have tried to resolve their complaints with their competitor, before we will agree to take on the complaint.
We believe that this process will assist in resolving some complaints in a fair and prompt fashion, in the spirit of fair competition and with the minimum of formality and cost.
In general, competitors will need to follow the following steps:
- A competitor who wishes to make a complaint should raise their concerns with the advertiser, ideally by registered post, or by another means of communication which will guarantee swift receipt by the advertiser. The complaint must provide an appropriate degree of detail in relation to the claim and medium in which it appeared, together with the factual basis for the complaint.
- The complaint should, ordinarily, be signed or authorised by a suitably authorised senior officer of the competitor complainant (e.g. CEO, Legal, Marketing or Regulatory Director), who takes responsibility for the accuracy of its content, and should be addressed to a senior officer or other appropriate contact of the advertiser.
- If the complaint is about an on-line marketing communication, the competitor who complains should obtain a screen shot of the page or pages that relate to the complaint or otherwise secure a cached copy of the website.
- The competitor complainant should allow five working days for a substantive response. If, at the end of this period, the advertiser has not opened a substantive dialogue or the parties cannot reach an agreement, the complainant may then submit a complaint to us.
- When submitting the complaint to the ASA, a copy of the registered letter setting out the concerns should be submitted, with a copy of the complete response (if any) from the advertiser.
We accept that there may be rare occasions when a competitor complainant will have a good reason not to correspond with an advertiser. In these cases we will retain the discretion to bypass this procedure, if we believe the complainant raises a potentially serious breach of the Advertising Code, or if there are other good reasons to believe that inter-party resolution of the complaint is not appropriate.
We are confident that this change will benefit advertisers, consumers and the ASA but we will monitor the process over the coming months to ensure it is having a positive impact.