Who: Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (“ASAS“)
When: 29 August 2016
Law stated as at: 8 November 2016
The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (“ASAS”), an advisory council to the Consumers Association of Singapore (“CASE”), issued “Guidelines on Interactive Marketing Communication & Social Media” on 29 August 2016 (the “Guidelines”), after consultation with social media agencies, public agencies, multinational companies and members of the public.
The Guidelines took effect on 29 August 2016. All marketers including advertisers, endorsers, media, bloggers, advertising agencies and their clients have been given a grace period of one month, until 29 September 2016, to adhere to the Guidelines when conducting their advertising and marketing communication on interactive and social media.
In response to the widespread and growing use of online marketing communication by businesses, ASAS issued the Guidelines to better protect Singapore consumers and enable them to make well-informed choices about the products and services that they view on digital and social media. The Guidelines focus on the following key areas:
- imposing minimum disclosure standards for sponsored messages and commercial relationships;
- prohibiting false reviews; and
- requiring offer and conditions to be communicated in clear terms.
The key requirements are:
- all marketing communication must be identified as such and distinguished clearly from editorial content and personal opinion;
- a connection or a relationship between the endorser, the content originator and the marketer must be fully disclosed. Examples of a connection or relationship include a commercial relationship, complimentary samples, friendly favours and special invitation;
- marketing communication created by the marketers for the purpose of promoting their goods and services should not appear to be generated from an impartial source;
- disclosures for sponsored content should be clear and prominent. The fact that the content has been paid for should be expressly stated;
- offer and conditions for the supply of goods and services should be clearly stated. Marketers should not charge for services unless they have clearly indicated to the consumers that they will be charged a fee;
- consumers should be informed in advance of the steps required to complete a purchase, contract or other commitment; and
- use of fraudulent means to boost user engagement of a website, a social media channel or their content is prohibited. Examples of fraudulent means include the creation of fake accounts, the use of a program that generates page views and the purchase of bulk “likes”.
Why this matters:
Failure to comply with the Guidelines risks the withholding of advertising time or space by the media owner. For bloggers, they risk the withholding of monies by their advertising agencies. The ASAS may publish the outcomes of any investigation in extreme cases, which would result in potential adverse publicity for the offending advertisers or bloggers.
Under certain circumstances, CASE may also take action against the offending marketers under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
We recommend that marketers should promptly turn their attention to ensuring compliance with the Guidelines.