The majority of our work, around 70%, involves responding to and tackling concerns about misleading advertising. A specific issue in this area involves ads which use trade-marks, trade names or other distinguishing marks of competitors when they don’t have the permission to.
The advertising rules state advertisers must not claim that they, or their products, have been approved, endorsed or authorised by a public or private body if they have not. Furthermore, they can’t imply that their product or service is endorsed, supported or approved by an official or government body unless, of course, it is.
Implied endorsement can be as simple as including official bodies’ logos or names in an ad but can also take the form of more subtle suggestion. The use of trade bodies’ logos and BSI (British Standards Institute) kite marks are strictly controlled by the terms of membership or registration and, without explicit permission; ads should not use such logos or marks.
Legitimate ads for public services must take into consideration the rules for third sector organisations. They must hold evidence for all their claims and be careful not to harm or offend the general public.
Our rules also apply to charities, NHS services, other public-funded services, and government campaigns. We cover political subject matter and websites of political parties but we don't regulate electoral propaganda.
In 1999, the advertising rules were changed to exclude any ad whose principal function was influencing voters in local, regional, national or international elections or referenda. Several factors influenced this decision, including the short, fixed timeframes over which elections run and the absence of consensus between the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties to bring political advertising wholly within the scope of the rules.
The matter was referred, on separate occasions, to the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Electoral Commission who both agreed this type of advertising should not fall under our remit. However it was recommended a separate set of rules should be established by political parties in partnership with the advertising industry; however this has still never come to fruition.