The Compliance team’s Repeat Offenders monitoring is an integral part of the work we do. If an advertiser repeatedly breaches the Code, we intervene and take action. This usually starts with advice and guidance, but for repeatedly misleading advertisers we can apply sanctions or ultimately refer them to Trading Standards.The good news is that, all in all, repeat problems are declining. But there is still work to do. When reviewing advertisers’ records, we often find that breaches aren’t indicative of deep-rooted compliance problems. Rather, they involved easy-to-fix issues that probably could have been avoided by a tightening of procedure or a final check pre-publication.

Top Five Avoidable Issues

The Compliance team’s top five avoidable issues are found across advertisers in different sectors.

Nobody wants to receive a ‘Repeat Offender’ notification, so why not review your procedures with a view to cutting out problems like these?

  • Promotions – closing dates: The closing date of a promotion is a significant condition and should be made clear. They shouldn’t be changed except in very limited circumstances. Consumers expect advertisers to be up front when running promotions and make complaints when they aren’t.
  • Prices – product shown: This might seem a simple one but it happens more often than you’d think. Make sure the prices match the product shown: don’t use higher specification products or show collections or sets of products if it is not clear that the consumer doesn’t get everything shown.
  • “Free” claims: Everyone loves freebies but consumers don’t like hidden conditions or unclear offers. See our advice on free claims and free trials and double-check “free” claims before they’re released.
  • Significant conditions / qualifications: If you’re making offers that are only valid under certain conditions, or claims that need to be qualified, make sure they are clear and upfront.
  • Product descriptions: These often seem like copywriting slips but consumers expect a product to be as described. Make sure you don’t mislead in your descriptions by exaggerating or omitting material information, and remember to hold evidence to substantiate objective claims.

On top of your internal compliance processes and final checks before publication, CAP has a range of services to help you keep to the rules, including free bespoke Copy Advice.

By James Tebbett, Senior Compliance Executive

Jim is a Senior Compliance Executive and has been a member of the Compliance team since 2011. He is currently working on projects about “copycat” websites, the scheduling of alcohol ads on television and online behavioural advertising.

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