Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
When: 1 May 2015
Law stated as at: 14 May 2015
Hot on the heels of the ASA’s recently published Prioritisation Principles comes another measure to help keep the regulator’s workload manageable – a cap on the number of issues that complainant can raise about an ad.
Going forward, the ASA’s stated policy is that “in most cases” its investigations will be limited to three points of complaint about an ad. This, says the regulator, will enable it to focus its work on the issues which are most likely to cause detriment or harm to consumers and the vulnerable.
As part of this policy, the ASA is asking businesses and members of the public to focus their complaints on no more than three issues.
They acknowledge that there may be times when an ad would require a wider investigation and have indicated they intend to be “flexible” where they believe a case merits investigation over and above three points of complaint.
Why this matters:
For advertisers, this new policy may be a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, it may help limit the level of resource required in defending ASA investigations: rather than having to answer numerous different challenges they should in each case only have to deal with a maximum of three.
On the other hand, it may present a challenge in the context of challenging third party ads. Where there are multiple grounds of complaint, advertisers will have to decide whether to focus on just three (and if so which three) or whether to ask the ASA to exercise its discretion to address additional points. Probably the latter approach is one to save for exceptional circumstances only.
When selecting which three points to focus on, advertisers will also need to weigh up the likelihood of other complainants also raising these or other points and take a view as to which points are likely to be seen by the regulator as highest priority. Given what the ASA has said about “detriment or harm to consumers and the vulnerable”, issues that fall into those categories may perhaps be preferred to points that impact more on a business complainant, such as denigration of a competitor.