Here, we try to include additional information about our assessment of complaints for you, to help answer questions you might have or to direct you to another organisation where that’s appropriate. You may find it useful to read the questions and answers below before submitting your complaint via our online form.

You can read the questions and answers in full below, or click a question linked here to skip straight to the answer.

 

My complaint refers to a general observation about advertising

We welcome all comments and views about ads, because they tell us what matters to people and help us to determine those areas that demand our attention at any given time. We feed all of the information we receive into our regular proactive ‘intelligence gathering’ sweeps, where we analyse a range of information – including complaints made to us – to spot significant, emerging or widespread issues.

If there is a specific advertisement that demonstrates your concern, please tell us by submitting a complaint through our website (Make a complaint). To make an assessment, we will need the following information:

  • The name of the advertiser
  • The time, date and medium in which the ad appeared
  • The name of the product or service that was being advertised
  • A copy of the ad or a brief description of it.

Please visit our home page, for more information about our work: https://www.asa.org.uk/

 

My complaint is about the appearance of gambling ads, generally

The ASA rules are in place aim to ensure social responsibility in gambling advertising, for example, by avoiding appeal to children or any suggestion that gambling can be an answer to financial problems.  More information about the rules on gambling advertising can be found on our website, at this link.

However, the frequency of ads on TV is not covered by our rules. There are limitations on the amount of advertising space that broadcasters are allowed to allocate. This is known as ‘minutage’ and is enforced by Ofcom. You can read more about this here.

With regard to specific sectors, broadcasters have discretion for the acceptance and scheduling of the ads they carry within the minutage guidelines. If you have concern that lots of ads of any specific sector appear on a particular channel, you may wish to contact the channel directly to let them have your opinion.

If there is a specific ad that you object to, or if there are any particular claims or other elements in any gambling ad that you want to draw to our attention, please make a complaint  on our website and we will consider them.

Our ‘News’ pages contain information about the work we undertake, including on gambling. Please visit here for more details.

 

I have a complaint about the content of a TV programme or sponsorship material on TV (This programme is sponsored by…)

The ASA regulates advertising on TV. If you would like to tell us about a TV ad that has caused you concern, please use our website to make a complaint.

Programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services licensed by Ofcom. You can contact Ofcom directly about these. You can find more information, including details of how to submit a complaint at this page.

You can read more about our relationship with Ofcom at this link.

 

I noticed an ad that made reference to a treatment for Cancer. Who should I report it to?

The Cancer Act (1939) prohibits any marketer from advertising an offer to treat any person for cancer or to give any advice in connection with the treatment.  Specific breaches of legislation such as this go beyond our role as the advertising regulator; the ASA operates under a self-regulatory system which supplements legislation. For that reason, any concerns about ads that reference treatment for cancer should be reported to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. You can find out how to contact them through this page

 

The goods I ordered online haven’t arrived / I’m in a dispute with a company/ My complaint is more about the actions a company took than what’s in their adverts

The ASA’s responsibility is the content of ads and the advertising rules from the CAP Code that we administer refer to the content of marketing communications. Private correspondence and customer service issues, including correspondence between organisations and their customers about existing relationships or past purchases aren’t covered by the Code.

If you’re having difficulty with a company, perhaps goods you ordered have not arrived, or you’re seeking a refund, you may wish to contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for advice. You can find out more about what they cover and how to contact them on their website.

 

Can you help with claims on a website that’s based overseas?

Jurisdiction of advertising material can be complex, especially when we’re dealing with online issues. The CAP Code that we administer does not apply to marketing communications in foreign media.

In some cases, however, complaints can be referred to a self-regulatory body in another country through our relationship with the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) and International Council of Advertising Self-Regulation (ICAS). Where that’s the case, we will refer your complaint and let you know. If the company you refer to is not a member of EASA or ICAS, the ASA will take what action it can where their material targets UK consumers, if the advertiser is based in the UK or are using a UK third-party platform to place their ads.

For content that originates from the USA you can contact the ASRC, a division of the Better Business Bureau. Follow this link here to find out how to contact them.  

Please see our page Remit: Country of Origin for more information.

 

I’m not sure if the issue I have is covered by the ASA

Please visit our page called ‘Something we cover’. Here we explain what is, and isn’t covered by the ASA’s remit and provide links to other organisations who may be able to help you.

 

How would you assess issues of harm and offence?

We recognise that people have different views and that it’s not always straightforward to make a decision over whether an ad has crossed a line. Please see our article, Bad taste or offensive, for an insight into how we respond to complaints in this area.

Can I complain about political party advertising? 

We won't be able to take any action based on complaints submitted about most political material, as it isn't covered under the advertising rules. Complaints about political bias in tv and radio ads can be made to Ofcom. For further information why political campaign material isn't regulated in the UK, read our recent article.

What action is taken against social influencers who don't make clear when they're being paid to promote a product?

Consumers should be aware when they are engaging with advertising material so our rules state that ads should be obviously identifiable as such.

We’ve already undertaken a significant amount of proactive work on this topic when it comes to influencer marketing. Our sister organisation CAP, in collaboration with the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), published an Influencer’s Guide. This aims to help those in the industry by outlining the key principles in this area and provide guidance on how ads should be labelled. We’ve teamed up with ITV to develop an ‘advertising survival kit’ for ex-Love Islanders when advertising on social media, conducted research on labelling influencer advertising and have already carried formal investigations against ads that have not been clearly labelled. There are also a number of helpful resources available on the ASA website, including infographics and AdviceOnline entries, and we’ve hosted webinars and events, as well as attending a few external ones (including VidCon), to help get the message out there.

We’re one of a number of regulators who might enforce the rules in this area. Along with affiliate marketing we can comment on social media posts if the content is controlled by a brand (rather than the person posting) and is written in exchange for payment. These are often referred to as ‘advertisement features’. We can also take action where influencers advertise their own products or run competitions. There are other commercial relationships, including ‘gifted’ scenarios for example, which would not fall within our remit to regulate. In those instances the CMA would be responsible for enforcement.

Following up on the advice we’ve already issued and rulings that have resulted from our formal investigations, the CAP Compliance team is conducting a project on influencer marketing and ad labelling. This will involve monitoring the sector more generally and issuing sanctions to ensure that the rules are being correctly and consistently applied.

The ASA is assessing any individual complaints that are received about this issue. There may be occasions where we feel that further action may be beneficial, so this may mean that we issue guidance to the parties involved, together with advice on how to ensure that their advertising complies with the Codes or formally investigating if we consider it necessary. However in light of the work already underway we may take the decision not to take further action on your individual complaint. If this is the case, we’ll keep a record of your complaint but we won’t report the outcome to you, however please be assured that the information we receive will be incredibly useful for intelligence gathering purposes to feed in to the project. We only require one example to assess so if you do decide to raise concerns about an influencer not labelling content correctly, only one complaint is necessary. You can sign up to hear about further news from us on this issue via our newsletter page.

What should I do if I’ve been scammed?

We focus our efforts on removing ads, rather than investigating the scammers themselves.

If you’ve been scammed, for example you’ve handed over money or your personal details, then you can find information and support on Citizen’s Advice’s website here. You can also report all types of scams to Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and, for international scams, to Econsumer.gov.

What should I do with scam emails?

The National Cyber Security Service has recently launched a Suspicious Email Reporting Service. If you receive an email you suspect is a scam, please forward it directly to [email protected]