Ruling backs ASA against Euro laws

The Advertising Standards Authority is not obliged to take account of the European Convention on Human Rights in reaching its decisions, the High Court ruled in a landmark judgment last week.

The ad industry watchdog was taken to court by City Trading, after it upheld complaints against the company’s mail order ad for a sex video in the Daily Mirror. The Authority ruled the text of the ad for “The Love Plan” video featuring Tony and Wendy Duffield, the couple who first achieved notoriety for being filmed having sex in a BBC documentary, offended the decency provisions of the British Codes of Advertising & Sales Promotion.

City Trading argued the ASA’s decision amounted to interference with its freedom of expression, provided for in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The ASA had ruled in its January report that the ad, headlined “Millions ‘Turn On’ to Watch Us Make Love!” was likely to cause offence in the context of a family newspaper.

In the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Ognall ruled the ASA had acted correctly in reaching its decision on the basis of the Codes alone.

ASA director general Matti Alderson says: “We are pleased but not surprised at having been vindicated. The ASA has always interpreted the Codes on the basis of commonsense. We will continue to draw a sensible balance between commercial freedom of speech and protecting the interests and sensitivities of consumers on the other.”

City Trading’s case was dismissed and it was ordered to pay the ASA’s costs. Leave to appeal was refused.

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