2014 marketing regulation dates for the diary

Uncertainty has become a default January position for marketers. Ever since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, where the economic wind is blowing and the answer’s impact on brands has vexed most in the industry. 

Westminster palace of night
Westminster

Politically, 2014 presents a whole new set of questions. It is a year where the main political parties will be looking to fine-tune and in some cases decide on the proposition they want to present to the public in time for the 2015 General Election.   

This, of course, presents both opportunities and threats to the marketing industry. Opportunities to influence policy to the benefit of all in the creative industries and threats in the form of the risk of knee-jerk populist policy designed to appeal to voters’ base instincts- namely ad bans, restrictions or unhelpful interventions decrying irresponsible marketing.

It is already happening to some degree – see Ed Miliband’s  recent call for a ban on payday loan ads being scheduled during children’s programming, echoed by MPs.

In Europe too, 2014 will see European Parliament elections and a change of presidency. Digital and direct marketing industry bodies are hoping the changing of the guard will lead to proposed Data Protection regulation being kicked into the long grass or at least further negotiation until after the European elections in May.

Elsewhere, new regulators will make their debuts in adland, prompting further questions about how they will go about their tasks. Consumer affairs regulator the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to close in April 2014 and is replaced by its successor, the Competition and Markets Authority. Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority, which will regulate the promotion and advertising of consumer credit, takes its bow in April when all related companies will fall under its remit.

Plenty to consider as we approach the start of a new year. Marketing Week flags up some of the consultations, regulatory changes and voluntary agreements marketers need to look out for in 2014.

ADVERTISING

ASA

What: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is to refer repeat offenders to Trading Standards to consider legal sanctions when the previous legal backstop, the OFT closes.  

Why it matters: 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.

When: 1 April.

ALCOHOL

What: Industry body The Portman Group is introducing a sponsorship code requiring alcohol brands to promote responsible drinking as a key part of any sponsorship campaign.

Why it matters: Although brewers such as AB Inbev and Heineken already do this through their work around the FA Cup and Champions League respectively, a formal code would formalise responsibilities. It will be hoped critics of the industry will also welcome the news. 

When: The code is expected in the first-half of 2014.

What: The ASA will begin proactively testing whether alcohol ads are breaching new scheduling standards formed to minimise their exposure to children. 

Why it matters: Any brands or broadcasters found in breach of the guidance issued in December 2014 could be subject an investigation and possible censure.

When: It in the second half of 2014.

CONSUMER

What: The Consumer Rights Bill sets out a framework that consolidates in one place consumer rights covering contracts for products and services, digital content and the law on unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Why it matters: The changes represent what the Government describes as “the biggest overhaul of consumer law for decades”. It means Trading Standards can operate over local authority boundaries, and gives enforcers greater scope to prosecute consumer law breakers. It will, according to the Government, make it easier for consumers and small to medium sized businesses to challenge anti-competitive behaviour through the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

When: The draft bill was published 14 November and it is expected to be made law in 2014.

CIGARETTES/E-CIGARETTES

What: The publication of a study into the effect of plain packaging on cigarette smoking levels. 

Why it matters: Depending on the results of the study, plain packaging could be implemented by the first half of 2015, robbing tobacco brands of the final marketing avenue available to them.

When: The study will be published by the end of March. A consultation on further proposals is expected later in the year.

Ecigarette

What: New rules on advertising e-cigarettes to be published by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP), the sister body of the Advertising Standards Authority responsible for writing the UK advertising code. 

Why it matters: The current advertising rules were not designed to regulate e-cigarettes and ads have been “caught”, CAP says, by codes intended to restrict the advertising of tobacco. New rules should clarify any uncertainty.

When: CAP says it wants to launch a consultation “as early as possible in 2014”.

DATA

What: The European Union Data Protection directive, which will require marketers to gain explicit consent from consumers to use their personal data for campaigns among a host of other requirements, is still working its way through the Brussels machinery. 

Why it matters: The proposals have met with criticism from industry bodies, which slammed it as a “brake on innovation, competitiveness and growth”. It is argued the need for companies to gain consent before processing data of any kind stifles responsible use of data for marketing activity.

When: The European Parliament elections take place on 22 May. MEPs are yet to vote on the proposals so any change in the makeup of Parliament is going to have an impact on its view on data protection.

What: The Government is due to publish a report into the progress made by companies meeting the requirements of its Midata initiative, which asks brands to provide consumers instant digital access to data collected for marketing purposes.

Why it matters: Consumer minister Jo Swinson launched a formal review of the progress made using the voluntary approach in November. The responses offered by the CEOs of the major companies in the energy, retail banking and mobile sectors will determine if legislative powers will be used to force action.

When: The report is expected in March.

DIRECT MARKETING

What: The DCMS is to publish its proposals on tackling nuisance telemarketing calls. Likely to include a lowering of the burden of proof the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) needs to act against suspected offenders. 

Why it matters: Changes will add legislative teeth to the ICO and Ofcom allowing them to take more action, more regularly, against rogue operators. It is hoped penalising those breaking the laws on consent will improve perceptions of telemarketers operating within the law.

When: Expected January.

telemarketers

What: A review of the effectiveness of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) by the ICO and Ofcom will be published. 

Why it matters: It is hoped a more effective TPS will cut down on the number of nuisance callers.

When: “Expected early in 2014”, according to the ICO and Ofcom.

FINANCIAL

What: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) takes over responsibility for the regulation of the companies offering consumer credit in part from the Office of Fair Trading and the now defunct Financial Services Authority. 

Why it matters: The FCA will have more of a focus on the advertising and promotion of retail financial services than its predecessors acting as a statutory backstop to the Advertising Standards Authority.

When: 1 April.

What: The FCA will introduce new rules requiring payday lenders include a risk warning on advertisements. 

Why it matters: Greater transprency could impact public appetite for the loans.

When: Expected April.

GAMING/GAMBLING

What: The OFT will publish a report on in-game advertising and data capture. 

Why it matters: The OFT wants to see app developers explicitly tell gamers if games feature in-game advertising and whether their personal data could be used for marketing purposes. It has warned the industry must comply “or risk enforcement action”.

When: Proposals are expected to be published before the OFT closes in April.

What: Gambling brands will have to hold a UK operating licence from the Gambling Commission in order to advertise in the UK.

Why it matters: Online gaming brands domiciled outside the UK will be required to comply with UK advertising codes as well as UK standards on transparency and ethics.

When: Introduction is expected by the summer.

POLITICS

law

What: The final Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences will take place before the 2015 General Election.

Why it matters: The leadership of the three main parties will use the conferences to announce policy intentions that are likely to appear in their election manifestos.

When: September.

What: The referendum on Scottish independence.

Why it matters: An independent Scotland would set its own rules on consumer law and protection as well as the media.

When: The vote will take place on 18 September.

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