The ASA works to make sure all advertising is legal, decent, honest, and truthful - wherever it appears.
You can complain to us if you:
- think there is something wrong with an advertisement you have seen or heard,
- think a special offer, competition or prize promotion has been unfairly run,
- want to stop direct mail from companies sent either by post, fax, text message or email,
- think there is something wrong with the marketing on a company's website or their social media.
How to complain
1. First, check whether your complaint is covered by the ASA. If it is, you should complete our online complaints form.
2. We'll give you a complaint reference number, which will be followed up later with the name of the person who will handle the case, and who will be your point of contact.
3. We will not disclose your name to the advertiser, unless you are making a complaint on behalf of your organisation or are an individual with an obvious or specialist interest, or unless it is strictly relevant to resolving your complaint.
Making a complaint on behalf of your company
If you wish to make a complaint on behalf of your company against a competitor, you must first raise your concerns with the competitor directly and attempt to resolve the issue.
If you are unable to resolve matters, then you may submit your complaint to the ASA, providing evidence that you have attempted to resolve the issue with the advertiser concerned.
What happens next?
Assessing your complaint
When we receive a complaint, it is assessed against the Advertising Codes. We may need more details from you before we can make an assessment, in which case we will ask you for that information. If there appears to be a problem with the ad, we will let you know we are taking up your complaint. If not, we will keep a copy of the points you raised on file, but will not issue a reply. In some cases, however, we may be able to suggest another body that can help you.
Sometimes we’ll decide that there might be a problem under the Advertising Codes but that the issues raised don’t call for us to begin an investigation. In those cases we’ll simply write to the advertiser providing appropriate advice and guidance, without seeking an assurance of compliance. Other complaints can be resolved relatively quickly and informally by working with an advertiser to have an ad changed or get your name taken off a mailing list. If it’s not that simple, or a serious breach of the rules is involved, then a formal investigation might be required.
In a formal investigation, the advertiser must defend their ad in writing and/or give us evidence to support it. Where needed, we also seek expert advice. We then write a recommendation that goes to the ASA Council for its final ruling. The ASA Council is the independent jury that decides whether or not there has been a breach of the Advertising Codes.
Rulings and publication
We publish our final rulings every week on our website. We let you and the advertiser know in advance when the case will be published, however you should keep the details of the case confidential until publication. We also make the findings available to the media. If the rules have been breached, the ad must be changed or withdrawn. If the complaint is ‘not upheld’ no further action is taken.
In certain circumstances, advertisers or complainants can request a review of a ruling. Both sides have 21 days (from when they were informed of the ASA Council decision) to ask the Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications (rulings) to review the case. But they must be able to establish that a substantial flaw of process or adjudication is apparent, or show that additional relevant evidence is available. If the Independent Reviewer accepts a request for a review he can ask the ASA Council to reconsider its ruling. More information about the Independent Review procedure can be found on our website.
We check ads to find out if the necessary changes have been made following a ruling. We also monitor ads to make sure that the Advertising Codes are being observed, regardless of whether a complaint has been made. We generally concentrate our activities on media or sectors with low compliance.
The vast majority of advertisers comply with our rulings. We work closely with the advertising industry to act against the few who do not. Broadcasters cannot air ads that break the advertising rules and we ask publishers not to print ads that are in breach of the rules.
Ultimately if advertisers and broadcasters persistently break the Advertising Codes and don’t work with us, we can refer them to other bodies for further action, such as Trading Standards or Ofcom.
How long will it take?
We try to resolve complaints as quickly as possible, but we have a duty to make sure our investigations and decisions are thorough and robust. Straightforward issues,where we don't think a complaint raises an issue under our rules, can be resolved in days. When we need to contact an advertiser much will depend on the complexity of the issues and whether they agree to amend their advertising without a formal investigation. A small number of our most complex cases can take six months or more to complete if, for instance, we need to appoint independent experts to help us assess evidence.
How to contact us
Please use our complaints enquiries form for help, or call us on 020 7492 2222.