British companies who promote their firms on the internet are now being monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority and any false claims made can result in the advert’s removal.
Prior to the 1st March start date the ASA could only monitor paid for adverts which are online, however the ASA’s powers now extend to all website adverts and false, misleading or offensive statements.
The power of the ASA extends to all websites with a .co.uk domain, although British firms advertising on non-British websites such as Facebook and Twitter can also be penalised.
New rules increasing the power of the watchdog for website content have come in to give the public a voice who have been unable to complain about false internet advertising.
They have been drawn up to prevent companies misleading members of the public with penalties being issued against adverts and firms who promote them.
This situation is a turn around from previous cases where the ASA had been unable to react to public complaints regarding false internet advertsising, despite 4,500 complaints being received by the ASA since October 2008.
Guy Parker the ASA chief executive said: “These are claims that are very similar to the claims that [the public] are used to seeing in adverts that appear in media like TV, radio, posters and print.”
A note of caution has been sounded by an expert who claims the vastness of the web will make it virtually impossible for the ASA to police public concerns relating to standards of claims or adverts.
Professor Vincent-Wayne Mitchell of London’s Cass Business School said: “I could have an advert up on the internet for a week or for an hour, cause widespread confusion, get sales from that, and then withdraw it.
“The only punishment that the ASA has is withdrawal, but I can have that as part of my own marketing strategy,” he added.
The ASA aim to name and shame companies who do not comply with the industry’s code of conduct and any material found in breach of the ASA’s policy will be removed altogether.