Lords rule ISPs should be responsible for ads

The House of Lords has rebuffed calls for Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AOL and Freeserve to be exempt from prosecution under the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill.

An amendment put forward in the Lords’ committee debate on the Bill last week proposed that ISPs should not be responsible for tobacco advertising on websites because they are only a conduit for the information.

In its present form, the Bill will ban tobacco advertising on the Internet, holding ISPs liable for prosecution if a tobacco ad is placed on a site via its service.

An ISP, if charged, will have to take the legal defence that it had no knowledge of the ad.

The Internet Services Providers’ Association says the Bill as it stands will conflict with the E-Commerce Directive, due to come into effect in the UK in January, which defines ISPs as conduits.

Lord Clement-Jones, who proposed the Bill, argues that ISPs must be included to make it consistent and overarching. He told the committee: “[Internet] providers have a duty. While I understand the concerns of noble Lords, I do not believe that that is the right way forward.”

Another committee meeting is expected within the next few weeks to discuss remaining proposed amendments.

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