Tick the boxes with our misleadingness checklist

Complaints about potentially misleading advertising make up around 70% of the total number of complaints made to the ASA every year. To help you avoid misleading consumers and make sure your ads aren’t contributing to this number, we have created a simple checklist of some of the key things to consider.

1. Don’t omit material information

Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product or service. Make sure that you have included all material information which applies to the product or service advertised, and do not mislead by presenting this information in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.

2. Hold evidence for all objective claims

Before making any objective claims in your ads, including objective comparisons and claims made in testimonials, you must ensure that you hold evidence which substantiates those claims.

It’s important to bear in mind that the ASA will consider how consumers are likely to understand a claim. Advertisers must hold evidence that can support the claim as it is likely to be understood by the average consumer; having substantiation for the claim as you intended it to be understood won’t pass the test if the likely interpretation is different from the intended meaning.

Obvious exaggerations, claims that are unlikely to be taken literally, and claims which will be understood as clear statements of opinion are unlikely to need substantiation,

3. Present qualifications clearly

Qualifications may be necessary to clarify or expand on the meaning of a primary claim, explain limitations or conditions, or communicate any other material information.

Qualifications must be clear and prominent, and must not contradict the claims they qualify in a way which is likely to mislead. Text size, position, overall context, the significance of the information, and the nature of the medium will all affect whether a qualification is considered sufficiently prominent.

4. Don't exaggerate

Although obvious exaggerations that the average consumer is unlikely to take literally are unlikely to mislead consumers, advertisers should ensure that they do not exaggerate the capability or performance of a product in a way which is likely to mislead.

5. Make sure your price claims are accurate

Pricing should relate to the product advertised, and must include all non-optional charges (such as VAT and booking fees), and all applicable delivery charges.

If using an “up to” or “from” price claim, make sure a significant proportion is available at the price stated, and check the guidance on the use of free before claiming that you are offering anything for free.

6. Make any limitations on availability clear

Make sure that you have made a reasonable estimate of the likely demand of products before they are advertised, and, if estimated demand exceeds supply, include information about the limitation in the ad. As well as this, marketers must monitor stocks and withdraw or amend marketing communications if the product advertised becomes unavailable.

There may be additional requirements regarding availability which apply when including prices in travel advertising, or when running a promotion.

Take a look at Section 3 for a more detailed look at the rules surrounding misleading advertising. These rules apply to all marketing, but some sectors, or types of claims have their own specific rules that you might need to think about as well - such as environmental claimsweight control and slimmingfood supplements and associated health or nutrition claims and beauty and cosmetics.

More on

  • Keep up to date

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