Watchdog ASA Now To Monitor Website Advertising For Compliance

From today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has the legal power to police how companies talk about themselves on websites and social networks.

Until now, the ASA has only been able to monitor paid-for ads online. The extended rules now cover statements on sites that can be interpreted as marketing, even if they are not in an advert.

Extending the UK advertising code to non paid-for statements means that these, like paid-for adverts, must not harm, mislead or offend.

The watchdog said that the new powers would help them to tackle an increasing number of complaints about the way companies sell themselves on the web. Since 2008, the watchdog has received more than 4,500 such complaints that it could do nothing about.

User-generated content, such as comments left by customers on a website, will not be covered by the new remit, however the ASA will be able to examine such content if a company adopted it and used positive endorsements to advertise.

The ASA will encourage firms to comply with the rules that have been set by carrying out a name-and-shame policy which will expose firms that make unsupportable claims. Further sanctions for offenders could see non-compliant content removed from search engines.

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