Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 2000
17 September 2012
The ASA’s 36th Annual Report crash landed in the year 2000, the first one of the new millennium, or the last one of the previous millennium depending on your point of view. It was a year of endings elsewhere, with the publication of the final Peanuts comic strip, and the last FA Cup Final held in the old Wembley Stadium – with the next one to be held at Wembley seven years later.
In the ASA’s year, as access to the internet became more widespread amongst the public, the ASA received increasing numbers of complaints from consumers who felt misled by adverts offering ‘Free Internet Access’, when in most cases the consumer was required to pay either a subscription fee, or a call charge for the time spent online.
Initially the ASA Council and CAP's General Media Panel agreed that 'free' could be used in ads so long as one element of the service (e.g. subscription) was free and the rest of the charges were clearly stated in the terms of the ad. However, as the year progressed, we continued to receive complaints as more complex access packages entered the market, and so the ASA Council revised their view to consider that advertisers should only make ‘free’ claims if consumers were not expected to pay anything at all, or were required to pay only for another completely separate item, e.g. subscription to a cable television service as part of the deal, in which case that requirement should be clearly stated.
The notion of self-regulation for advertising was given a boost that year by Mr Justice Hunt. Following an ASA adjudication that Ribena Toothkind could not claim that the product did “not encourage tooth decay” and the implication that it actively benefited oral health, the advertiser unsuccessfully appealed for an Independent Review and, failing that, a Judicial Review. In reaching his conclusion Mr Justice Hunt said that the ASA was not only right, but “duty bound” to come to the decision it had reached.
We also began to dip our toes into the regulation of online advertising, moving to apply the Codes to advertising in ‘paid-for’ space (e.g. in banner or pop-ups), sales promotions wherever they appeared online, and advertising or sales promotions in commercial emails. Nowadays, that online remit is considerably expanded, with a huge extension
of our remit in March 2011.
Read the 2000 Annual Report here