Company websites and facebook in UK to be policed from March

Tighter restrictions on online marketing by drinks companies in the UK are due to be introduced next March.

Tighter restrictions on online marketing by drinks companies in the UK are due to be introduced next March, according to the Advertising Standards Authority there which has stated that it’s to extend its remit into the digital world to include advertisers’ own websites.
The rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code) are to apply in full to online marketing communications and include areas related to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children.
The UK move is in response to a formal recommendation from a wide cross-section of the UK industry, states the CAP.
However in addition to advertisers’ own marketing communications on their websites, the remit will also apply to marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control including social networking sites such as facebook and Twitter.
Both alcoholic and soft drinks companies there will be subject to the same regulations as currently apply to print, broadcast and paid-for online banners.
“Journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes and ideas – except those that are direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising – are excluded from the remit,” the ASA has stated.
ASA Chairman Lord Chris Smith explained, "We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from the 1st of March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA.”
From March the ASA can also demand the removal of paid-for search advertising – ads that link to the page hosting the non-compliant marketing communication. It’s believed that this will be effected by the agreement of the search engines concerned.
The ASA is also considering placing ads online highlighting an advertiser’s continued non-compliance.
A six-month period of grace is currently in existence for training purposes.
“Extending the online remit of the ASA has been a top priority for UK industry over the last couple of years,” CAP Chairman Andrew Brown added, “Our aim has been to extend further in the online world the principles that are already well-established in our system, namely those of effective consumer protection and fair competition”.
However concerns continue to be expressed about just how social networking sites such as Twitter and facebook can be policed, where advertisers may be held responsible for any inappropriate brand content posted on these pages by anybody.

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