OFT urges publishers to ‘police’ advertisements for scams

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is encouraging magazine and newspaper publishers to screen advertisers more carefully to prevent the publication of ads for mass-marketed scams.

The OFT is concerned about the increasing use of national newspapers and magazines to promote various scams, many of which encourage consumers to call premium telephone numbers.

“How much vetting of advertisers a publication carries out is at its own discretion” says the OFT, but it adds it is looking for “some kind of best practice being brought in”.

The OFT believes newspapers and magazine scams could be costing the economy more than &£1bn a year. Mike Haley, head of the OFT’s scambusters team, believes that though publications cannot police everything, they do have “some responsibility” for the ads they carry.

Though the Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for regulating such issues, the OFT could take court action if a publication repeatedly broke the rules.

An OFT spokeswoman says: “We can take enforcement against misleading advertisers if we recognise an ad as being a scam and where it has been pointed out to a publication, its failure to act upon advice and stop carrying the ad would be a breach of the rules.”

One industry source says: “If we have the slightest doubt about an ad, we have it checked from both a legal and financial point of view. We’re rigorous because we understand our reader is top priority. But others within the industry show less vigilance.”

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