Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

For the purposes of the Code, a child is someone under 16. If advertising is aimed at children, then section 5 is likely to apply. Section 5 of the CAP Code contains the rules regarding advertising targeted at, and featuring, children. 

The Code states that children must not: be made to feel inferior or unpopular for not buying the advertised product (5.2.1) or be made to feel that they are lacking in courage, duty or loyalty if they do not buy or do not encourage others to buy a product (5.2.2). Adult permission must be obtained before children are committed to buying complex or costly products (5.2.4). Ads targeted at children must not encourage them to make a nuisance of themselves to parents or others (5.4.1) and must not include a direct exhortation to children to buy an advertised product or persuade their parents to buy a product for them (5.4.2).

Neither CAP nor the ASA has a definitive rule on what a child could afford or what might be considered costly, but marketers might want to use the Halifax Children’s Pocket Money Surveys as a general guide. The 2021 survey showed the average weekly pocket money per child was £7.55.

The ASA will also consider how any claims will be understood by a young audience. Text such as “callers must be 16+” or “get bill payer’s permission” or similar does not absolve marketers of acting responsibly and including clear pricing information when advertising services that are likely to appeal especially to children (Red Circle Technologies t/a TXT UK, 10 November 2004). Similarly, prices presented as a one-off charges which do not make clear ongoing payments are required are likely to be problematic (Walt Disney Company Ltd t/a Disney Mobile, 10 October 2007).

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