New ASA online legislation and how it could affect your business
From the 1st of March 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be able to wield its powers over any online content ‘directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods or services.’ In other words... pretty much everything. Interestingly, the ASA judge all complaints on a case by case basis, there is no blanket rule. With March 2011 bringing the first of these cases, there will be no prior history for it to base its compliance issues on, so how will you know if your message falls within their acceptable messages?
The truth is that most of what is sent is already compliant; those online companies already adhering to the Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) code, will have nothing to worry about. It will be interesting, however, to see how the first cases of 2011 will be dealt with. Apparently the main question that will decide if the piece of offending material will fall within the ASA’s remit will be whether or not it is trying to sell goods or services i.e. a clothing retailer, listing prices on the advert. If the answer is yes, the offender is far more likely to be investigated.
An impossible task?
I feel very sorry for the people responsible for policing social media and social network sites (which will also fall into the regulations). I say this for a number of reasons, not least the ease at which a falsehood can be spread from peer to peer. The main problem that I foresee is the current method of reporting a violation. The user has to screen grab the offending material and forward it to the ASA but it would be far easier and cheaper to simply remove the content than suffer the consequences of a followed up complaint.
No need to panic
Don’t be scared, you are far more likely to have to listen to a quiet word in your ear first and it is only the persistent offenders that will have need to panic. Also, for those of you that are worried that you are not currently compliant, the ASA and CAP will be broadcasting details in January and February next year.
As always, I would recommend keeping your email marketing messages user specific, with content that they are interested in, from an email address that they recognise and don't forget your company registration details in the footer.