Gov’t plans to criminalise ‘pester power’ advertising

The Government plans to criminalise the advertising industry’s attempts to use “pester power” to snare children, at the insistence of the European Commission.

The move, made by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), follows a recommendation in its consultation paper on the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, aimed at combating misleading and aggressive practices.

The recommendation states that action on “aggressive practices” should include the imposition of criminal penalties on all advertising with the explicit aim of encouraging pester power.

It is thought that the new recommendations have been made following requests made by the Trading Standards authorities.

The move could mean that company directors at brands such as Walkers and McDonald’s find themselves facing criminal charges if their ads are seen to target children directly.

Incorporated Society of British Advertisers director of public affairs Ian Twinn says this is “wholly inappropriate”, because it is not a criminal but a regulatory issue.

“We recognise that parents do need to be supported on the issue of pester power, but bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority already have the power to act on such matters,” he adds.

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