OBA complaint numbers lower than expected

The advertising watchdog has received just 34 complaints from people objecting to online behavioural advertising since it took on oversight last month.


The Advertising Standards Authority’s remit was extended to include the practice of presenting consumers ads based on browsing history data, OBA, on 4 February.

The ad networks behind brand ads have to include information within or near ads explaining to consumers they have been targeted using the tool. The ASA is also tasked in ensuring that consumers are offered an option to opt out.

Complaints to date have been from people that have opted out but are still seeing the same ads, those reporting difficulty opting out and general objections to cookie use by brands.

No formal investigations have been launched yet. A spokesman for the ASA told Marketing Week most of the complaints received have been dealt with informally by talking through the necessary processes to opt-out.

Complaint volumes are a “bit below forecasts”, he says, adding: “That said, complaint levels fluctuate and we’re monitoring the situation behind the scenes to keep tabs on the type and number of complaints that are coming in and whether there are any trends that highlight the need for follow-up action.”

Brands have to include a mechanism to gain consent from users to use cookies that procure data for marketing or other purposes under the terms of the European Union Privacy Directive introduced in May 2012 and enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The move follows recommendations set out in a best practice framework developed by trade bodies, ad networks and publishers in April last year. This was an attempt to develop pan-European standards on the use of OBA to allay European Commission concerns over privacy.

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