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Complaint about your ad

Make a complaintThe ASA is responsible for administering the UK Advertising Codes with the aim of keeping UK advertisements legal, decent, honest and truthful. With any complaint we receive, our focus is on providing a proportionate and fair process for all involved.

It is worth noting that around 80% of the complaints we receive don’t raise any problems and in these cases we simply answer the complaint without the need to contact the advertiser.  We will contact the advertiser whenever a complaint indicates that an ad might have broken the rules, but we won’t start a formal investigation into every case.  We assess the issues raised against our prioritisation principles to determine the most appropriate course of action. Under these principles we will:

  • consider what harm or detriment has occurred or might occur;
  • balance the risk of taking action versus inaction;
  • consider the likely impact of our intervention; and
  • consider what resource would be proportionate to the problem to be tackled.

We prefer to work by persuasion and consensus so, where appropriate, we will resolve complaints informally. For example, we might provide advice and guidance or seek agreement that an ad will be changed or withdrawn.   Informally resolved cases are not put before the ASA Council and no ruling is published, so it means we can resolve problems far more quickly than by a full formal investigation. Formal investigation is necessary if the issues can’t be informally resolved. These cases are presented to the ASA Council to make a final ruling and published on our website.

If the ASA is investigating a complaint about your advertising then our leaflet ‘Complaint about your ad. What happens now?’ should help guide you through our complaints procedure, or you can call us on 020 7492 2222 for advice.

You can also view our detailed complaints handling procedure for both broadcast and non-broadcast advertising.

Working together

We aim to resolve complaints and investigations as soon as possible and strive to establish a healthy working relationship right from the start.

We accept complaints from both the public and the industry. We keep the identities of members of the public anonymous, unless there is a good reason to reveal it (e.g. non-delivery of goods; prize draw winner; they want their name taken off a mailing list) and we have the complainant’s permission. If the complainant is someone acting in an official capacity, we will require them to be named.

At the beginning of an investigation we contact all parties involved (complainant, advertiser and, if appropriate, the broadcaster) and inform them of the process.

The advertisers are provided with a full description of the complaint, the issues we intend to investigate, what substantiation is required and the deadline for their response. Sometimes the investigation process is quite complex so we try to ensure that we are clear in our request for substantive information and encourage advertisers to contact us at the earliest opportunity if anything is unclear or they are not sure what we require them to do.

We try to keep investigations moving to bring them to a timely conclusion and set reasonable deadlines to achieve this. We expect advertisers to provide full, open and timely responses to our requests for information, evidence and/or substantiation. The investigation progresses more rapidly when evidence supplied is accurate, relevant and suitable for defending the claim and that the information advertisers would like us to pay particular attention to is clearly highlighted.

Sometimes circumstances render it impossible for advertisers to meet a particular deadline, so we ask that they let us know immediately the reason for the delay as we may be able, but cannot guarantee, to grant a short extension. If there are delays in our progress which are beyond our control, we do of course keep all interested parties informed, and strive to deal with cases as quickly as possible, without compromising fairness and thoroughness.  Although each complaint will take a different length of time to resolve.

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website..

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Non-compliant online advertisers

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