What we cover - Areas of complaint inside our remit
Complaints about online behavioural advertising (OBA)
What we don't cover - Areas of complaint outside our remit
- Press ads
- Radio and TV ads (including teleshopping presentations)
- Ads on the internet, smartphones and tablets
- Ad claims on companies’ own websites
- Commercial e-mail and text messages
- Leaflets and brochures
- Ads at the cinema
- Direct mail, whether addressed to you personally or not
Find out more about OBAOBA is the practice of collecting information from web browsers so it can be used to present online advertisements that are more relevant to the user of a particular computer. Many advertisers believe OBA offers consumers a much better experience of online advertising.
When you visit a site, a cookie may be placed on your computer’s browser by an OBA business (sometimes called an ‘ad network’). If you or anyone else uses that browser to visit websites the OBA business has a relationship with, the cookie collects information about those visits. For example, it can collect information about pages visited, ads clicked and products purchased or shown an interest in. It does not collect information that identifies an individual.
Using this information, the ad network can allocate the viewing behaviour from a particular web browser to different ‘interest segments’ and the ad network will then serve different ads to different interest segments. For example, if a browser frequently navigated the book review section of a news website and searched other websites for books, that interest might be placed within a ‘book lover’ segment and served advertisements for books and other goods or services relevant to a literary interest.
Alternatively, a specific product or service may be displayed on your browser because you have a looked into buying that product. For example, you may be looking for a present for a friend (a coffee maker for instance) and search a department store website and click on a few different coffee makers in the appliances section. After a while you give up your search and decide to visit an online newspaper site to read an article. Once there, you may find that you are then presented with ads for different coffee makers. This type of advertising is sometimes called ‘re-targeting’.
I’ve opted out but I’m still receiving OBAOpting out is a reliable method of making sure that information is not collected or used for OBA purposes. However, on occasion other activities can interfere with the ‘opt-out’. As part of our process looking into your complaint, we will ask you to confirm that you have followed the below steps.
Remember, opting out of OBA will not stop online advertisements. You will still see online ads when you browse online and you may still see ads carrying an OBA logo, because the logo may still be carried on ads that are not placed using web browsing information.
- Did you opt-out of all? The opt-out options provided by businesses may include a link that allows you to opt-out of receiving OBA from a large number of businesses or from specific businesses only. If your intention was to opt-out of receiving OBA completely, it may be the case that this has only been done for one particular third party. In order to opt-out of a large number of businesses you can visit www.youronlinechoices.com or alternatively change your browser settings (see below).
- Have you deleted the cookies on your computer? If you have deleted any cookies on your computer after you have opted out from OBA you may have deleted an opt-out cookie. The normal process of opting out of OBA requires a cookie itself, so if you regularly delete your cookies, but want to remain opted out from OBA, you will need to repeat the opt-out procedure.
- Have you opted out on each browser you use? OBA opt-outs work only on the web browser you’re using when you opt-out. You will need to repeat the opt-out for each computer and each web browser you use (e.g. Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer)
If you have checked this information, but are still having difficulties, then please let us know and we will look into your complaint further.
I want to stop all online advertisingOpting out of OBA does not stop online advertising completely. Online advertising allows businesses and organisations to provide online services at either a reduced or free cost to visitors. Opting out of OBA ensures only that web browsing information is not collected and used to deliver advertising. You will still see ads on websites as before, but they won’t be tailored according to previous online browsing behaviour.
We are unable to take action to prevent advertising from appearing in general, although if you see a specific advertisement that is misleading, harmful or offensive we can take action against those.
Find out about cookie consentThe UK Advertising Code does not require businesses or organisations to seek your consent for placing cookies on a browser. This means we are unable to look into complaints about cookie consent.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the responsible UK body; you can find more information and the ICO’s contact details on their website.
Find out when the OBA rules don’t applyThe OBA rules are specifically aimed at providing consumers choice over the collection and use of viewing data to deliver behaviourally targeted advertising. But not all types of online targeting are OBA and the rules do not apply to:
- Complaints about OBA for interactive display ads, such as ads embedded in games or expandable ads; and
- Contextual advertising where an ad is served based on the content of the website rather than web viewing behaviour, such as the placement of a sports clothing ad on a sports website because the advertiser believes the readers of that site are more likely to be interested in the ad; and
- For technical reasons, the rules do not currently apply to mobile phones or other handheld devices, such as e-readers and tablets. It is envisaged that the rules will extended to mobile phones and other handheld devices in time.
- The collection and use of information for behavioural advertising by web site operators on their own website(s)
Credit advertisingWe have powers to investigate financial advertising on TV and radio, but complaints about product-related claims in non-broadcast ads for credit products such as credit cards, store cards, personal loans and secured loans should be made to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Data protection and freedom of informationThe ASA can look into complaints about the use of personal data for marketing by mail, fax and some e-mail as well as the content of advertising that uses those media. Data protection and freedom of information legislation are enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office.
Too much direct mail, telemarketing calls and fax marketingTo reduce the amount of direct mail you receive, contact the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). You may also be able to register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Fax Preference Service (FPS) to reduce the amount of telemarketing calls and marketing faxes you receive.
Which? has a useful online tool to help direct you to the right place to make a complaint.
Discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age or disabilityFor advice on discrimination in ads and equality law, please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Editorial contentContact the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines. Contact Ofcom about the editorial content of TV and radio programmes including on the BBC. You can also contact the BBC Trust about the editorial content of BBC programmes.
Financial advertisingWe have powers to investigate financial advertising on TV and radio, but complaints about product-related claims in non-broadcast ads for mortgages, general insurance, investments, pensions, cash savings and bank accounts are dealt with by the Financial Conduct Authority. See, however, the information on credit advertising above.
Fly postingFly posting is mostly illegal and you should raise concerns about it with your local council. Find the contact details of your local Council.
FundraisingThe ASA regulates ads that refer to fundraising. But if you have a complaint about fundraising in general, for example on–street collection, you can contact the Fundraising Regulator. The Fundraising Regulator monitors and helps resolve public complaints about fundraising. They require their members to treat the public with respect and honesty.
In-store advertisingMisleading claims on posters, shelves or till points should be reported to your local trading standards department. The ASA will look into complaints about any leaflets or brochures that can be taken away from a store. We can consider complaints about sales promotions that appear in-store.
MedicinesThe ASA can investigate complaints about most medicines advertising. However, if we aren't able to deal with a particular problem we may refer you to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Phone-paid servicesPhonepayPlus is the organisation that regulates phone-paid services in the UK - the services and goods that can be bought by charging the cost to a phone bill and pre-pay accounts. These include helplines, competitions, downloads, TV voting, news alerts, charitable donations and interactive games.
Political advertisingAll complaints of political bias in TV or radio advertising should be made to Ofcom.
For reasons of freedom of speech, we do not have remit over non-broadcast ads where the purpose of the ad is to persuade voters in a local, national or international electoral referendum. Complaints about political advertising should be made directly to the party responsible for that advertising.
Products, services and contractual disputes
Companies' trading practices, contractual matters, the quality of goods and services, claims on packaging and trade names are all dealt with by Trading Standards.
Shop window displays
Misleading claims in shop window displays should be reported to your local trading standards department. Trading standards departments do not, however, look into complaints about taste and decency, so if you find a shop window display offensive you should take it up with the shop in the first instance. You may also want to raise it with your local representatives such as a councillor or your MP. We can consider complaints about sales promotions that appear in shop window displays.
TV and radio programme sponsorship
Programme sponsorship (where the name of the programme sponsor is announced in a ‘credit’ at the beginning and end of a programme, and when breaks occur in the programme). Please contact Ofcom about these.