You featured recently two contrasting views on the ASA (MW April 27). Firstly, in an Analysis you reported that the ASA felt that a 16% rise in complaints was testimony to “an effective one-stop shop regulator”, while a story on page 3 had the headline “ASA fails to take any action against four most criticised ads”.
In my view, these two statements sum up the state of self-regulation in the UK. We have a team at the ASA who can competently accept complaints, however they are extremely limited in their ability to do anything about offending activities. Sure, the occasional ad is pulled off TV, but normally the campaign is nearly over by the time this is requested.
Even more importantly, the ASA has no effective sanctions for non-media campaigns. It cannot levy fines for non-compliant on-pack promotions, it cannot insist on the withdrawal of products with illegal lotteries or competitions, and its biggest sanction – that of negative publicity – is so over-played as to be less than mildly embarrassing.
A more aggressive range of penalties is required to make the industry realise that failing to comply is a serious offence and one that could cost them dearly. Until that time, the “effectiveness” of the ASA will not be maximised and we risk seeing the Government imposing more draconian rules on our industry.