Home > Legal Issues > Advertising Law: Quick Start Guide

Advertising Law: Quick Start Guide

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 12 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Advertising Law Legislation Cap Bcap

Advertising law is a complex area. All too frequently, even the largest of businesses fall foul of regulators – either because they have misunderstood the rules or because they have wilfully ignored them.

It is vital that you understand the law regarding your advertising activities, and that you stick to it at every step.

What are the Advertising Codes?

There are two main codes of practice to which businesses must adhere in their advertising. These are the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code and the Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) code.

The CAP code is used for non-broadcast advertising. This might include printed adverts, direct mail, advertorial, sales promotion and so on. It also includes commercials in a non-broadcast environment, for example in the cinema or on a DVD.

The BCAP code is used for broadcast advertising. This includes advertisements, text, or any other content on an Ofcom-licensed radio or television service.

It is important that you read the code that applies to your advertising. There are, however, some general principles that apply to both codes. The overarching requirement is for you to be able to back up any claims that are made about your products. In addition, you must make clear when content is opinion, rather than fact. You cannot say something like “our customers say our widgets are the best in the world” without backing this up.

If you are selling a product in a certain sector, for example food or medicine, you must also comply with specific limitations. For example, certain ‘restricted’ phrases have specific meanings when it comes to food products. You should seek advice in these cases.

What is the Relevant Legislation?

Aside from your requirements under the advertising codes of practice, you must also comply with three main pieces of legislation. The first is the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which broadly requires your descriptions of products to be accurate. The second piece of legislation is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices Regulations 2008. This prohibits certain ‘aggressive’ sales tactics, along with misleading descriptions. Finally, the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 prevents you giving traders misleading marketing information.

It is important to remember that your activities may also be subject to other specific pieces of legislation, depending on the sector in which you operate.

What about Online Marketing?

Recent changes have affected the way that online marketing is regulated. On 1 March 2011, the CAP code of practice has been extended to cover online marketing. This means that all your ads, promotions, and other marketing activities, whether online or on email, must now comply with the CAP code.

Further provisions for email marketing are made in the Electronic Communications Act 2008. This requires you to clearly show when an electronic communication is for marketing purposes. You must also offer opt-outs at the end of every communication. Finally, you must only send marketing messages to people who have opted in, unless they are current or former customers.

There is a huge range of rules that could potentially impact your business. It is important that you seek legal advice if you are in any doubt.

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