The 2012 Annual Report provides an overview of the work the ASA and CAP from January 2012 to December 2012 to ensure advertising in all media is legal decent, honest and truthful – both for the protection of consumers, as well as ensuring fair competition between advertisers. In this report we share the ASA’s ‘big five’ priorities around misleading advertising:
- Free Trials - We banned several ads last year where customers were unwittingly tied into an on-going paid relationship with an advertiser after signing up for a free offer. We remain alert to tackling this worrying practice and are warning consumers to read the small print carefully before handing over any payment details.
- Misleading pricing - Our action has already led to more transparent pricing in the hotels sector, getting them to include VAT in their advertised room prices, and in the telecoms sector through clearer information on price packages that include several elements, e.g. broadband, line rental, call costs and TV.
- Daily deals - We found widespread problems such as failing to conduct promotions fairly; not making clear significant terms and conditions; failing to provide evidence that offers were available; and making exaggerated savings claims.
Our action has resulted in a wholesale shift in the way ‘daily deals’ companies now approach their advertising and has led to a welcome fall in complaints and a real improvement in the way daily deals are promoted.
- Misleading testimonials - Testimonials must be genuine and mustn’t be edited in a way that misleads. We’ve been busy working to improve transparency around paid endorsements. For example, our rulings against celebrity tweets have set a clear benchmark that requires advertisers to make it obvious when the tweet is a paid-for commercial message.
- Misleading health claims - False claims can have serious consequences by discouraging people from seeking proper medical advice. Many of these claims are made online. We’re taking action where we can. By taking action and raising awareness, we play an important part in protecting consumers from misleading and potentially harmful ads.
In addition, our report revealed that from January 2012 – December 2012:
• We received 31,298 complaints about 18,990 ads
• Our work led to 3,700 ads being changed or withdrawn
• We dealt with 6,273 complaints about 5,338 online ads – 28% of our workload
• 70% of our cases were about ads that could be considered misleading.