Advertising Self-regulation and how it works
What marketing communications are covered?
What obligations are involved?
How to complain
Complaints Committee
Complaint procedure
Complaints by competitors
Enforcement and sanctions
Compulsory Copy Advice
Copy Advice Service
Who pays?
European dimension

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What marketing communications are covered?
The Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing applies to commercial marketing communications and to sales promotions that promote the sales of goods or services.  Section 1 of the Code contains full details of the marketing communications that are covered. 

Non-commercial marketing communications, i.e. those which express the advertiser's position on a political, religious, industrial relations, social or aesthetic matter or an issue of public concern, are not subject to the Code.

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What obligations are involved?
The Code, which is based on the principles established by the International Chamber of Commerce requires that all marketing communications:

  • should be legal, decent, honest and truthful
  • should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society
  • should respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business.

The Code contains a set of General Rules and these are supplemented by additional requirements for particular products or sectors. In general terms, the rules are designed to ensure that marketing communications do not mislead or cause general offence.

The same principles apply to sales promotions including special offers involving vouchers, coupons or samples, reduced price or free offers, prize promotions and competitions. In addition, the detailed rules for such schemes are set out in the Section 3 - Promotional Marketing Practices of the Code.

The Code is applied in spirit as well as in the letter.

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How to complain
If you object to a commercial marketing communication (advertisement, promotion, direct mail, etc) on TV, radio, internet, posters, brochures, newspapers, magazines, emails, cinema, direct mailings, etc., or to sales promotional material, write to us by letter or send us a fax or with your full name and address and also providing as far as you can:

  • a copy of the marketing communication, if possible, (i.e. press, magazine, etc)
  • details of when and where it appeared
  • the name of the advertiser
  • in the case of sales promotions, the name of the product and the promoter and copies of labels, leaflets or entry forms
  • in the case of a direct mailing, a copy of the envelope as well as the mailing
  • the reasons why you consider the advertising to be wrong.
  • confirmation as to whether you are objecting as an individual consumer or as a competitor.

Or you can use our on-line complaint form

Complaints are investigated free of charge.  To the extent permitted by law, the identity of an individual consumer complainant remains confidential unless a commercial or other interest is involved in making a complaint.  Complainants may be asked to confirm that they have no such interest.
Our address is:-
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland,
Ferry House,
48 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2

Phone: (01) 613 7040
Fax: (01) 613 7043

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Complaint procedure
A complaint is evaluated initially by the ASAI Secretariat to determine whether it comes within the terms of reference of ASAI and whether there is a prima facie case for investigation.

Where there the Secretariat determines that there is a prima facie case for investigation, the advertiser or promoter (or the advertising/promotional marketing agency involved) is informed of the complaint and invited to comment on it in relation to the Code.

On receiving the response, the Secretariat, where it considers that circumstances warrant it, prepares a summary of the case.  This will include any facts or advice that the Secretariat has gathered.  It will include the Secretariat’s Recommendation to the Complaints Committee in relation to what the Committee’s decision might be on the marketing communication’s compliance with the Code and whether the complaint should be upheld.  The Committee may also recommend other courses of action.

The complainant and the advertiser/promoter or agency are provided with a copy of the Secretariat’s Recommendation and are given an opportunity to express any further views in the matter.  These views should be submitted within a defined period to be specified by the Secretariat.

The case, including any views received on the Recommendation, is then submitted by the Secretariat to the independent Complaints Committee, which decides whether or not the Code rules have been contravened.

Details of the case including the names of the advertiser/promoter and the agency and the Complaints Committee's conclusion, but not the name of a consumer complainant, are set out in a Case Report which is normally released to media for publication and posted on the ASAI’s website, at the discretion of the Committee.

A marketing communication which has contravened the rules of the Code is required to be withdrawn or promptly amended.  In the case of a sales promotion, the promoter may be requested to make the necessary changes to the way the promotion is communicated or conducted.

Notwithstanding the above, the investigation procedure and the consideration by the Complaints Committee may be accelerated or otherwise varied where circumstances warrant. If a case is considered by the Secretariat, in its absolute discretion, particularly grave the Secretariat may request interim action by the advertisers/promoter or agency including the immediate amendment or withdrawal of a marketing communication pending completion of the investigation and adjudication by the Complaints Committee.

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Complaints by competitors
ASAI is not an arbitration service for disputes between commercially interested parties. These disputes are best resolved by direct discussions between the parties or their agencies or through their appropriate trade associations.  In addition, the option of applying to the Courts for an injunction under the European Communities (Misleading Advertising) Regulations, 1988, is always available.

An intra-industry complaint may be investigated by ASAI where the interests of consumers are involved. In such cases, complainants may be required to substantiate their complaints.  The identity of the complainants is revealed to the advertiser or promoter and both parties are named in the published Case Report.  The Authority has the option of issuing a statement rather than a formal decision where this is appropriate. 

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Complaints Committee
The Complaints Committee comprises persons with a background in the advertising industry and others including members nominated by the Director of Consumer Affairs.  The structure of the Committee ensures that the majority of members are not employed in or have a background in the advertising industry. These lay members have an interest and expertise in relevant areas such as consumer protection, child and adolescent welfare, the sciences and community issues. The Committee at present comprises an independent Chairperson and thirteen members. The composition of the Complaints Committee and the participation of nominees of the Director of Consumer Affairs and other independent members ensures the objectivity of the complaint investigation procedure and provides assurance that the system is operated with special regard to the interests of consumers. The members of the Complaints Committee, each acting in an individual capacity, consider each case on its merits taking account of the characteristics of the likely audience, the media by means of which the marketing communication is communicated, the location and context of the marketing communication, the nature of the advertised product and the nature, content and form of any associated material made available or action recommended to consumers.

Where a complaint falls outside the terms of reference of ASAI, e.g. because it does not relate to the content of a marketing communication or where there is no apparent case for investigation, the complaint will not be pursued and the reason will be explained to the complainant. Where possible ASAI will help the complainant to contact the most appropriate source of assistance.

Complaints will normally not be pursued if the matter is already the subject of simultaneous legal action or where legal action with a view to litigation, or litigation (or some other alternative dispute resolution process) has been initiated. Similarly the ASAI does not wish to duplicate the work of other regulatory bodies. Where it would be more appropriate for a complaint to be investigated, or dealt with by other bodies, the ASAI will endeavour to provide relevant information or to direct the complainant to the most appropriate body.

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Enforcement and sanctions
Publication of the Case Reports of the Complaints Committee, including names of advertisers and agencies involved, is an important element of the self-regulatory system. A marketing communication which breaks the rules must be withdrawn or amended and media will refuse to publish a marketing communication which fails to comply with Code requirements.
A member who does not accept ASAI decisions may be disciplined by the Board and may be subject to penalties including fines and/or suspension of membership.

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Compulsory Copy Advice
The ASAI may require advertisers whose marketing communications persistently and/or gravely breach the Code to have some or all of their proposed marketing communications subjected to Copy Advice until the ASAI is satisfied that future communications are likely to comply with the Code.

In particular, if an advertiser seems to have deliberately flouted the Code with the intention of generating complaints, PR and subsequent notoriety, the ASAI can request the advertiser and the media to submit for a stated period any of the advertisers’ proposed marketing communications in order to check their conformity with the Code. 

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Copy Advice Service
Confidential advice on a proposed advertisement or promotion may be obtained from the ASAI Secretariat free of charge. Such advice is not binding but does help to avoid wasted expenditure on an advertisement or campaign that might otherwise have to be amended or withdrawn.

So a phone call or a fax can save cost and embarrassment.

There may also be occasions when a media owner is concerned that a proposed marketing communication which is not subject to the Code may cause offence.  The Secretariat will on request give informal advice in such cases.

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Who pays?
The self-regulatory system is funded entirely by the advertising industry and involves no charge to consumers or to the State. Costs are shared across the industry, ensuring that all advertising sectors participate but that none exercises any special influence over ASAI operations. This independent status is a key factor in maintaining public confidence in the self-regulatory system.

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European dimension
European Advertising Standards Alliance
ASAI is a founder member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA).  EASA is a non-profit organisation based in Brussels which brings together 30 national European and non-European advertising self-regulatory organisations (SROs) and 15 organisations representing the advertising industry in Europe – advertisers, agencies and various forms of media including television, radio, press and outdoor poster advertising. 
EASA is the single authoritative voice of advertising self-regulation whose mission is to promote responsible advertising through best practice in self-regulation across the European Union for the benefit of consumers and business.  EASA’s objectives are to promote, support and extend self-regulation, develop best practice, handle cross border complaints and provide information and research.

Promoting self-regulation
EASA is committed to extending effective advertising self-regulation across the European Union.  In June 2004, all EASA’s industry members signed a Self-Regulatory Charter in front of members of the European Commission, committing the advertising industry to increased moral and financial support for self-regulatory systems across Europe.  The Charter outlines 10 concrete commitments related to SRO codes and operations as well as geographical and media coverage and consumer awareness.  Since then, EASA has worked to implement these commitments across the European Union and especially to set up and train advertising self-regulatory systems in the new Member States.

Cross-border complaints
EASA supervises the operation of the Cross-border complaints system, details of which are set out in here.
In addition, EASA is an active member of the Rogue Trader Prevention Taskforce, which implements strategies to combat advertising scams across Europe.  As such, EASA works closely with national authorities to share information and consolidate efforts to tackle rogue trader activity. 

EU legislation
For advertising self-regulation to maintain and further develop its role in ensuring consumer protection, it must be accepted and recognised by Member States as complementary to existing legislation.  EASA works closely with the European Commission and Parliament to ensure that new legislation affecting the advertising industry provides scope for and gives recognition to self-regulation.  EASA is particularly active in consultation with the Commission and Parliament on the revision of the Television without Frontiers Directive (to be renamed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive). EASA, along with NGOs and European Commission representatives, participated in three dedicated advertising roundtables with the European Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate General, chaired by Robert Madelin, Director General, in late 2005/early 2006. The roundtables explored the existing and potential benefits of advertising self-regulation and a report on the issue was released by the Directorate in July 2006.

Expertise
As the single authoritative voice of advertising self-regulation in Europe, EASA provides expertise to EU and international bodies including the WHO, OECD and UNEP.  EASA is also an active member if the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), on whose global code of advertising all SRO codes are based, and currently co-chairs the ICC taskforce on code revision and consolidation.

For further information on EASA and European advertising self-regulation you can visit the EASA website www.easa-alliance.org or e-mail library@easa-alliance.org.
Address:
10-10a Rue de la Pépinière, B-1000, Brussels, Belgium. 
Tel: +32 (0) 2513 7806.
Fax: +32 (0) 2513 2861

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