Persistent ad rule breakers could face legal action sooner

Brands that persistently break advertising rules could find themselves facing legal action sooner after a change in the ad watchdog’s legal backstop. 

Earlier referrals possible after ASA switches legal backstop to Trading Standards.

The Advertising Standards Authority today (21 November) announced it would now be referring repeat offenders to Trading Standards to consider legal sanctions. The Office of Fair Trading, which has fulfilled the role, is to close in April 2014 and its successor, the Competition and Markets Authority will no longer consider advertising cases.

It is understood Trading Standards will lower the threshold that the ASA can refer things for a second look meaning persistent offenders could be referred earlier.  Previously, the OFT insisted all self-regulatory avenues be exhausted before referrals could be made.

It is also hoped the new arrangement will lead to a more joined up approach between the two. There has been criticism from brands that have had action taken against them by both bodies at the same time.

The arrangement covers non-broadcast ads only. Trading Standards could take action under consumer and business protection laws.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker says: “We already enjoy a close and effective working relationship with Trading Standards. This new arrangement will help us become more joined-up and consistent as well as giving consumers and business confidence that an advertiser who doesn’t play by the rules will face the consequences.”

Previous referrals by the ASA include Groupon, which agreed to change its marketing practices following an investigation by the OFT.

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