Comply with advertising standards

Online and email advertising regulations


There are various rules you must follow when advertising your products online or via email.

The non-broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code includes marketing messages on businesses own websites, and other online content under their control.

This means that both paid-for and non-paid-for advertising and marketing online must comply with the CAP Code. This includes:

  • banner and commercial classified adverts - including adverts within emails
  • pop-up adverts
  • paid-for search listings
  • paid-for listings on price comparison sites
    statements on your website intended to sell or promote your product or service
  • sales and marketing messages on social networking pages under your control - eg Facebook or Twitter
  • paid-for and non-paid-for sales promotions

However, the extended scope of the CAP Code does not include user-generated content on your website, or similar feedback on social networking sites - unless you incorporate it into your own marketing material.

Additional rules for commercial emails

The Electronic Communications Act 2000 requires you to make all commercial emails clearly identifiable as such, either in the header or within the text of the email.

Electronic communications rules also require that you get opt-in permission from consumers you send marketing emails to, unless they're existing or former customers or someone you have previously negotiated. Even then, you must still give them the chance to opt out at the end of every email.

For more information on the rules regarding email marketing, see email marketing.

Rules for pay-per-click advertising

The major pay-per-click (PPC) providers will ask that you comply with copyright, trade marks and anti-discrimination law when you use their services. The provider may also have their own rules for what can and cannot be advertised and how. Refer to each search engine to get more information about how they enforce online advertising standards.

PPC terms and conditions will typically set out that it is your responsibility as the advertiser to:

  • check your right to use any copyright or copyrighted content - ie you must not promote copyrighted content without the permission of the copyright holder
  • not advertise products that are replicas or imitations of designer goods (a replica item contains the trademarked name or logo of a designer brand, but is not made by that brand)
  • avoid using words that could be considered discriminatory or offensive to any protected group