Corporate Eye

New Regulations for U.K.-based Online Brands and Marketers Now in Effect

If you’re a U.K.-based company that publishes content online (or shares content published by other people), then you need to know the new regulations from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that came into effect this month.

Before March 1, 2011, the ASA worked as an offline and online paid advertising watchdog. If a consumer came across a paid advertisement that was misleading, dishonest, or otherwise deceptive, they could file a complaint with the ASA who would dish out punishments to offenders. Beginning on March 1, 2011, consumers can now submit complaints to the ASA for content published by companies, too.

For example, if a company publishes a customer testimonial on its website and cannot prove the testimonial is real and comes from an actual consumer, they could be in violation of the new ASA regulations. Another regulation violation could happen if a company republishes or publicly shares content on Facebook, Twitter, etc., that was created by another person or entity and is found to be misleading, dishonest, or otherwise deceptive. In other words, unless online content published by a company is editorial or a press release, it’s subject to ASA policing.

The primary aspects of the ASA policy that companies need to follow are:

  • Companies and brands must be able to show documented evidence to substantiate claims published online.
  • Claims must be legal, decent, honest, transparent and truthful.
  • Ads and communications must not be likely to cause serious or widespread offense (e.g., race, religion, sex or disability).

Consumers can file complaints through the ASA website, and companies that are found guilty of violating the ASA regulations will be censured and asked to remove the problematic content. However, if a brand does not comply with that request, the ASA will be publicly named as a “non-complying digital advertiser.”

Be careful what you publish or share online!

Image: stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.