Comply with advertising standards

Advertising complaints procedures

Guide

Once a complaint about your business' advertising or promotion is registered with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the ASA can decide that:

  • your marketing communication falls outside the scope of the Advertising Codes
  • there is no case to answer
  • there should be a formal investigation of the communication
  • there has a been a minor breach of the codes that can be informally resolved

Sanctions when complaints are upheld include:

  • insistence on the removal of the offending advertisement
  • refusal of further advertising space
  • adverse publicity
  • referral to the ASA's legal backstops (Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority) for consideration of sanctions - for persistent offences

There are special provisions to deter tit-for-tat complaints from your competitors. If one of your competitors wants to lodge a complaint against your business, they must agree to their name being publicised and must justify their complaint to the ASA.

If you want to lodge a complaint about one of your competitors, you are obliged to try to resolve differences through the relevant trade organisations. Complaints are not pursued if the point at issue is the subject of legal action in progress. For example, if you are involved in a legal dispute with a rival lawnmower manufacturer over the intellectual property of a new engine, the ASA will not investigate the complaint.

Complaints to the ASA about breaches of the Advertising Codes are investigated free of charge and must be made in writing within three months of the marketing communication's appearance. A copy of the marketing communication detailing where and when it appeared should accompany the complaint.