Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 16 June 2020
Law stated as at: 3 July 2020
On 16 June, the ASA announced that it had introduced a new Scam Ad Alert System to help protect consumers. The move followed growing concerns that some online paid-for adverts link through to scams and other fraudulent content, often using fake celebrity endorsements or stories. Many consumers have suffered significant financial losses as a result of such scam ads and their associated sites, particularly since many of them relate to bogus crypto investments.
The new Scam Ad Alert reporting system encourages consumers to report scam ads they come across on social media, in paid-for search engine results or on newspaper or other websites. When it receives a report, the ASA quickly sends an alert to its participating organisations – which include major digital advertising and social media platforms such as Facebook and Google – and to the owner of any applicable sites.
If the partners are able to locate the adverts, these are taken down and the advertiser’s account suspended. The adverts or advertisers may also be added to a “blocklist”, which helps prevent offending adverts from appearing on new platforms in the future.
The ASA launched the system with the help of the Internet Advertising Bureau, the industry body for digital advertising, following a successful three-month pilot scheme.
You can access the ASA’s Scam Ad Alert reporting form here.
Why this matters:
This new system has been brought about through collaboration between the regulator, law enforcement bodies and industry. It shows the ASA’s commitment to raising consumer awareness, tackling online harms and taking a joined-up approach in order to do so. The move coincides with the Scam Awareness Campaign 2020, which also brings together various consumer protection bodies and regulators including Citizens Advice, National Trading Standards, the Competition and Markets Authority and the ASA, to help tackle scams, particularly following the increase in scams reported since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The partnership between the ASA and industry partners including Facebook and Google further raises the question of how much responsibility such companies should bear in relation to paid adverts appearing on their platforms.