The ASA has today published a half-year report into its regulation of Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA). The report highlights complaint issues, the number of businesses sticking to the rules, and our plans to further increase awareness of the rules with companies that are engaging in OBA.

Online Behavioural Advertising is a form of targeted advertising which involves the collection of information from a computer’s web browser in order to deliver online ads that are more likely to be of interest to the user. We took up responsibility for new rules in February 2013 that provide the public with notice of, and control over the OBA ads they’re served.

As part of our work in this area we monitored the websites of over 350 companies and organisations (third parties) delivering these ads to find out how the rules are working, and whether these companies require any further advice and guidance on how to get it right.

The new rules require third parties that deliver behaviourally targeted ads to make clear they are doing so, and to provide a relevant opt-out mechanism on their own website and on the OBA ads that they serve by, for example, including the Your Online Choices icon on their advertisement.

In summary we've found that:

  • Complaint numbers have been low (only 77 complaints between Feb – June 2013)
  • The main problem they experienced was difficulty in trying to opt-out of receiving OBA. We provided detailed advice and guidance to all who contacted us to help them opt-out.
Many of the companies we monitored were including links to information about OBA and how to opt-out, but the appearance and placement of the initial notices were inadequate. As a result we’ve started contacting third parties we consider likely to be in breach of the rules to draw their attention to the rules, to explain why their websites are likely to be problematic and signpost where they can get help and guidance.

Our six-month review has provided us with a useful insight into consumer awareness of OBA, how it works and how they can exercise choice and control over receiving it. It’s also given us the opportunity to identify potential regulatory challenges – such as identifying which country a third party is operating out of – and to explore how we respond to and tackle them.

Looking ahead, we plan to continue monitoring this area: offering consumers helpful guidance and support, as well as a place where they can complain about OBA they think breaks the rules; to support and educate UK businesses involved in OBA about how best they can comply with the rules; and to help our self-regulatory partners in other countries in their regulation of OBA.

Please contact [email protected] for copy of the full report. 


More on

  • Keep up to date

    Sign up to our rulings, newsletters and emargoed access for Press. Subscribe now.