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FAQs

  • Question 

    About the ASA

    Here are the most common questions about the ASA and our structure.

     

  • Make a Complaint

    How we handle complaints

    Questions about our complaint handling

    Go to complaint handling FAQs

About ASA

When was the ASA established? 
What are the ASA’s responsibilities?
What do the Codes cover?
Who writes the Codes?
Who are ASA Council?
What are the ASA’s powers?
Who can fine or take legal action against advertisers?
What do we regulate online?
How is the ASA funded?
What is the role of Government in ad regulation and how do other statutory regulators fit in?

General enquiries

Can I lodge my support for an advertisement that you are investigating?
Can I object to an ASA adjudication?
How can the ASA ban an ad after only one complaint?
Can the ASA look into my complaint if I find an ad irritating?
Can the ASA look into complaints about the amount of advertising?
What data is available about complaints made to the ASA?
How can I complain about the ASA?
Can I ask the ASA whether an ad is in breach of the Code?
How much does the ASA cost the taxpayer?
I have responded to an ad and money was taken out of my account without my consent, can you get it back?
I want to request information from the ASA under the Freedom of Information Act, can I do so?

About ASA

When was the ASA established?

The ASA, the independent UK advertising watchdog, was established in 1962 by the advertising industry in order to adjudicate on complaints about non-broadcast advertising.

In November 2004, the communications regulator, Ofcom, contracted out day-to-day responsibility for regulating TV and radio ads to the ASA. This created the one-stop shop giving the public and advertisers, for the first time, a single regulator for advertising.

More information can be found in history of regulation.

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What are the ASA’s responsibilities?

The ASA is responsible for regulating the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing in the UK. We make sure advertising standards are kept high by administering the Advertising Codes.

The ASA responds to concerns from members of the public and industry about advertisements that may be misleading, harmful or offensive.

We also conduct pro-active surveys of sensitive sectors to monitor compliance rates with the Codes and to act as a deterrent to bad practice and an encouragement to good practice.

By independently administering the Advertising Codes we aim to maintain consumer trust in advertising and a level-playing field amongst business.

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What do the Codes cover?

The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) applies to advertisements across media including newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters, leaflets, mailings, e-mails, texts and on UK based company websites.

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) applies to the content and scheduling of television and radio advertisements (including teleshopping). It also covers programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services but complaints about these are handled by Ofcom.

Find out more in what we cover.

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Who writes the Codes?

The Advertising Codes are written, revised and enforced by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).

CAP and BCAP’s membership comprises organisations that represent advertisers, agencies, media space owners, direct marketers and broadcasters.

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Who are ASA Council?

ASA Council is the body that adjudicates on complaints about advertisements. They make the final decision on whether ads breach the Codes.

ASA Council is made up of 13 people, appointed by the ASA Chairman, Lord (Chris) Smith, with two-thirds of the members independent of the advertising industry. The industry members bring valuable experience and knowledge of advertising to the table but cannot comment on cases where they have a conflict of interest.

ASA Council members serve three-year terms for a maximum of six years. They are appointed following public advertisement.

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What are the ASA’s powers?

Our primary sanction is to have advertisements that we judge to be in breach of the Codes withdrawn and prevent them from appearing again. In the vast majority of cases advertisers agree to withdraw their ads following an upheld ASA ruling.

Rulings about TV and radio ads are followed immediately under the broadcasters’ licences.

For non-broadcast advertising, on the rare occasions that an advertiser refuses to comply with an ASA ruling CAP can impose further sanctions to bring to bring them into line.

The ASA is a non-statutory body so we do not have the power to fine or take advertisers to court.

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Who can fine or take legal action against advertisers?

In exceptional circumstances where an advertiser has so seriously or repeatedly breached the Codes for misleading advertising or a broadcaster continues to run problem ads then the ASA can refer to its legal backstops.

The Trading Standards is the ASA’s legal backstop for non-broadcast advertising and can initiate statutory interventions against advertisers that fail to co-operate with the self-regulatory system.

Ofcom is the ASA’s co-regulatory partner for broadcast ads and the ASA can refer problem broadcasters to them for consideration of sanctions including fines and revoking licences.

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What do we regulate online?

The non-broadcast CAP Code applies to advertising online in paid-space such as pop-up and banner ads, virals and paid-search as well as sales promotions wherever they appear.

It also applies to advertising in non-paid space on UK based company websites and in other third party space under their control such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

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How is the ASA funded?

The system is funded by a levy on advertising spend. This is collected at arms-length on behalf of the ASA by two bodies: the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (Asbof) and the Broadcast Advertising Standards Board of Finance (Basbof).

The levy is set at 0.1% of advertising space costs and 0.2% of Mailsort contracts.

The levy is collected at arms-length to maintain the independence of the system. It ensures that the system is properly funded, whilst ensuring that ASA decisions are not influenced by those who may or may not be funding the system.

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What is the role of Government in ad regulation and how do other statutory regulators fit in?

The ASA is independent of Government. But the Advertising Codes are underpinned by consumer protection legislation and reflect UK and EU law so any decisions we make reflect this.

CAP and BCAP maintain an open dialogue with Government about its views on advertising and the principles of good regulation.

The ASA has a co-regulatory partnership with Ofcom for TV and radio advertising. BCAP is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, but any major changes to the rules must be approved by Ofcom.

The ASA has a close relationship with Trading Standards, which serves as our legal backstop power for misleading non-broadcast ads.

We work with statutory sector regulators in areas where there is, or might be, regulatory overlap. Such bodies include the Financial Conduct Authority, the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

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General enquiries

Can I lodge my support for an advertisement that you are investigating?

There is no mechanism for registering your support for an ad that the ASA is investigating. The ASA responds to complaints from members of the public or industry about ads that they believe are misleading, harmful or offensive. It is our role to establish whether an ad is in breach of the Codes not to monitor levels of public support for an ad.

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Can I object to an ASA adjudication?

You can send us your comments about our rulings: we always welcome the feedback we receive.  

However, if you are not party to the original case, i.e. if you are not the advertiser or a complainant, then the ASA cannot enter into extensive correspondence with you about an individual investigation. Our rulings put on the public record, in full, the details of how and why we reached our decision. Objecting to an ASA ruling will not change the decision.

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How can the ASA ban an ad after only one complaint?

The ASA does not play a numbers game. If an ad is found in breach of the rules it is in breach irrespective of how many people have complained about it.

It can take just one complaint for the ASA to launch an investigation, the result of which can be that an ad has to be withdrawn. The ASA considers the validity of the complaint and measures the ad against the Codes when assessing whether an ad is likely to be misleading, harmful or offensive.

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Can the ASA look into my complaint if I find an ad irritating?

Although some people do not like certain advertisements purely because they find them irritating, it does not provide strong enough grounds to ban an ad. Therefore, the ASA cannot look into complaints on that basis.

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Can the ASA look into complaints about the amount of advertising?

The ASA is responsible for regulating the content of advertisements. The amount of advertising in non-broadcast media is not subject to regulation. The amount of advertising allowed on TV is subject to the Rules on the Amount and Distribution of Advertising which are enforced by Ofcom.

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What data is available about complaints made to the ASA?

A summary and breakdown of complaints received by the ASA features in our Annual Report each year. In addition, all rulings are published on our website every Wednesday.

If you require more detailed information about complaints received by the ASA, we will try to meet your request but we charge a per hour fee for requests requiring specialist database interrogation skills. If your request falls into this category, we will ask you to complete a Data Request Form, which helps us identify and extract the information you require as quickly as possible, thereby keeping charges to a minimum. We will advise you how long we think it will take to produce the information, and any associated charges, and you can then decide if you wish to proceed.

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How can I complain about the ASA?

We aim to provide advertisers and consumers with a consistently high standard of service. We understand that, on some occasions, you may not be happy with the service you have received and we would like you to tell us why. Read more here about making a complaint about the ASA.

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Can I ask the ASA whether an ad is in breach of the Code?

We can only establish whether an ad is in breach of the Codes by going through due process, i.e. receiving and investigating a complaint. You will need to lodge a complaint about an ad, via our online complaints form, by letter or by phone, in order for us to do this.

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How much does the ASA cost the taxpayer?

The ASA does not cost the taxpayer a penny. We are funded by an arms-length levy on advertising spend.

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I have responded to an ad and money was taken out of my account without my consent, can you get it back?

Unfortunately, no; we regulate the content of advertisements only. If money has been taken from your account without your permission, it is important that you contact your bank straight away and resolve the problem with them. Some banks mistakenly refer their customers to us, if they think that the problem is about an advertisement.

The ASA does not have any powers to stop standing orders or direct debits on your behalf.

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I want to request information from the ASA under the Freedom of Information Act, can I do so?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as it is not a body listed by the Act as being a public authority. The ASA is independent from Government and receives no funding from the taxpayer.

Although we are not required to provide information, we will always try to be as helpful and transparent as we can when answering queries and provide detailed information and responses wherever possible. Please visit our Transparency section of our site for more information.

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ASA Rulings

View our latest weekly ASA Rulings or search for rulings from the last five years.

Dealing with complaints - FAQs

We work hard to ensure our complaints procedures are transparent. Here we answer some commonly asked questions about how we handle complaints.

Follow Us

For ASA news, including our weekly rulings, press releases, research and reports.
 

Non-compliant online advertisers

Check the list of online advertisers who remain in breach of our rulings.

Press Zone

This section is for journalists only. Here you will be able to access embargoed material, breaking news and briefing papers as well as profile details for the ASA press office.