Companies could face prison for breaching product placement rules

Kate%20Morden%2C%20Bebo%20advertOnline marketers could face criminal proceedings if they do not adhere to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, warns European law firm Osborne Clarke.

The new regulations, which are designed to target “sharp practice” and aggressive selling tactics online, will come into force on May 26.

Under the new Unfair Trading Regulations companies using online product placements are likely to be made to inform their viewers. For instance, brands such as Orange, Procter & Gamble and Microsoft recently signed deals to appear in Bebo’s popular soap Kate Modern. The regulations mean that Bebo is likely to be forced to reveal product placements in its programmes, possibly in the credits.

The practice of astroturfing, a blogger writing on behalf of a commercial entity without making it clear, will be outlawed. Buzz marketers also come under threat from the new regulations. Conducting any marketing without stating that they are doing so on behalf of a brand could result in the company being found to be on the wrong side of the law.

E-mail spammers will also come under threat, as the new rules will also punish directors of companies who “make persistent and unwanted solicitations by telephone, fax, e-mail or other remote media.”

According to the law firm, advertisers could also face the potential of a £5,000 fine if they flout the self-regulation advertising codes. It will also be possible for directors, managers and company secretaries to be found personally liable for offences under the new rules and in serious cases face up to two years in prison.

Also under the new rules, for the first time UK governing advertising and marketing activities will include specific protection for “vulnerable” customers. This could include marketing activity targeting children, older age groups and non-English speaking tourists.

According to marketing and advertising legal experts Nick Johnson and Stephen Groom at Osborne Clarke, these regulations will have significant implications for many businesses, with potential criminal sanctions for those who slip up.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here