Public responds to online remit extension
3 October 2011
The ASA can reveal that, following the extension of our online remit in March, incoming complaint levels have been substantially above our forecasts. While that has led to a challenging workload, particularly in the spring and summer, complaints have declined somewhat since May and we’re now on top of the workload. We’re encouraged that there’s clearly a public demand for our remit extension and are dealing effectively with the complaints.
On 1 March 2011, the ASA’s online remit was extended to cover companies’ and organisations’ own marketing claims on their own websites and in other non-paid space online under their control, such as social network sites. Between 1 March and 23 September 2011, we received:
- 5,531 complaints about 5,165 ads/campaigns (cases) under our new remit, out of a total of 18,369 complaints about 14,205 cases
- 30% of complaints and 36% of cases in the period were under our new remit, putting us on course for record complaints and cases figures in 2011
- 86% of the cases under the new remit related to misleading advertising claims (compared to 65% for all cases in 2010).
What has prompted complaints?
The most complained-about sector is complementary and alternative health, in the main because of orchestrated complaint campaigns. Other than that, complaints have been very similar to those we receive about ads in other media, with concerns around pricing, availability and the performance of products in sectors like business, retail, leisure, computers and telecommunications and holidays and travel.
After dealing with the initial influx of complaints, we’re now back on top of our workload. But there remains plenty to do. We’re looking at ways of communicating with small and medium sized businesses, many of whom don’t know their advertising on their websites is subject to the UK Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. And we’re continuing to provide training for industry, updating our online resources as well as proactively monitoring websites and social media to assess compliance with the rules.
The online remit extension is a significant landmark for advertising self-regulation, helping ensure that all advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. That’s good for consumers, but it’s good for responsible companies and organisations too: trusted advertising works better.
The high complaint levels prove the public demand for our service. But while it’s crucial that the ASA offers redress, we must be realistic: it will take time to tackle everyone’s concerns. This first seven months is only the start.