For the first time, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has used their new regulatory powers to rule on a website claiming to repel head lice.
Last month the ASA’s powers were extended to cover non paid for online marketing communications in addition to the paid for marketing communications (paid search, banner ads, pop ups, etc) they already cover. Now the advertising watchdog has given the online marketing world its first ruling, showing exactly the standards they expect when marketing online.
According to the Press Association, a complaint was made about the Maperton Trust website, an educational holistic health charity. The website claimed to offer, “The latest technology to repel head lice from infesting children and adults”.
The ASA upheld the complaint and investigated the website. They asked the charity to submit correspondence between themselves and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The charity claimed the agency was satisfied with the way the product had been marketed, however the correspondents did not actually state satisfaction to any specific product.
Therefore the ASA found the advert to be a misleading substantiation regarding health related products which breaches CAP Code rules. As a result the Maperton Trust had to remove all claims that the product can repel head lice.
What makes this significant was that it was the first ruling from the ASA since the extension of their remit on 1st March 2011. Covering all organisations operating in the UK, the ASA’s new powers mean that they can rule on any website’s non paid and paid for marketing communications, except user generated content (UGC).
According to Marketing Week complaints regarding online marketing communications are on the rise, which justifies why the ASA’s remit had to be extended. However UGC still seems to be a problem – enforcing codes on social media activity would be a near impossible task and one that would be met with fierce criticism.
As discussed at the Brighton SEO conference [See: #BrightonSEO 2011 Conference Review] revealing that webmasters must stay on the right side of the ASA if they want to progress and not fall foul of their rising powers. Their first landmark ruling will be a stark reminder of their new control and point out the standards to which the online marketing industry should follow.
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