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LEGISLATION NEWS: Advertising Standards Authority extends rules across digital communications

The digital remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is to be extended from March 1 2011 to deliver more comprehensive customer protection online.


The new rules in the UK code of non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing (the CAP code) will apply in full to online marketing across all sectors and businesses regardless of size.


The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has extended the digital remit of the ASA in response to a formal recommendation from a cross-section of UK industry. The remit covers advertisers' own marketing communications on their websites and marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter.


As part of the new rules, ads that link to the page hosting a non-compliant marketing communication may be removed with the agreement of the search engine and ASA could place online ads highlighting a business' continued non-compliance.


While many in the industry will welcome the extended remit, others are concerned that much ambiguity remains in the new rules. Client services director at Immediate Future, Jane Franklin, warns of "grey areas" with regards to what exactly is considered marketing material in the new remit. 


"If those influencers are professional journalists they are deemed capable of making up their own mind about PR material. What about bloggers? At which point do they move from interested member of the public who needs protecting by the CAP code, to media professional who can apply a different set of criteria to evaluation marketing criteria?" commented Franklin. 


Franklin goes on to say that brands who may already be nervous or unfamiliar with legislation and best practice about social media will be put off even more as a result of what she says is a complicated and unclear remit.