Advertising goes hand in hand with any business. So when it comes to promoting your products or services, it’s important to get it right. Associate Partner, Christopher Buck, explains what you need to think about before you target your audience…
Advertising: the risks
Apart from damage to reputation and potential loss of trade when you promote your business, you should also be aware of the litigation risks that can arise out of unfounded claims and false advertisements.
Some footwear manufacturers have previously advertised using expressions that claimed their shoes had positive health effects. Others have made claims that their shoes would help people to lose weight. Where these claims have been unfounded, the manufacturer has been ordered to refund their customers.
Advertising: the rules
Such unfounded claims go against the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the ‘CAP Code’). Rule 1 of the CAP Code outlines: “the central principle for all marketing communications is that they should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.” By advertising that their shoes provide health benefits that they do not, manufacturers have been found not to have been truthful to potential and actual customers.
When you’re planning an advertising campaign, you need to think about your responsibility to consumers and society. You should also respect the principles of fair competition, which are generally accepted in business. Customers buying shoes that are advertised as having health benefits expect to see and experience such benefits. So it’s your responsibility to make sure your consumer is given the right information.
Rule 3 of the CAP Code goes on to state that advertisements shouldn’t be mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or otherwise. It’s your responsibility as the advertiser to hold documents as evidence, which can substantiate any claims made by them before your advert is published. Any claims regarding health benefits that are found to be inaccurate and mislead customers who may not have otherwise bought your product are in breach of the CAP Code and liable to complaints and refunds.
The Advertising Standards Authority
Advertisements are also importantly self-regulated and governed by the Advertising Standards Authority (‘ASA’). New adverts don’t have to pass’ an ASA clearance, but complaints, such as for unfounded health benefits from wearing a type of shoe, can be made to ASA regarding the nature or content of an advert.
ASA isn’t bound by the guidance provided by the CAP Code and as a result may uphold complaints which, under the CAP Code, would otherwise be deemed as compliant. These decisions are then often reflected on in published guidance on the CAP Code to provide as up-to-date direction as possible.
Advertising: How to comply
To comply with advertising regulations, you should consider the following:
- Take initial, and continued, advice regarding copying
- Be sure your advertisement accurately reflects what is being advertised - your advert should fit the product, not necessarily vice versa
- Ensure your advert isn’t misleading as an ASA complaint may be upheld even if it has only been made by one person.
You should also avoid:
- Adverts which are misleading as to the qualities and properties of goods and services
- Competitive adverts, which overly criticise a competitor with no fair reason
- Making unfair comparisons - these should only be made with products that are like for like
- Making pricing errors
- Infringing the intellectual property rights of another trader.
With all this in mind, your business should review each and every advert in its entirety, consider all claims and their accuracy, and ensure they’re not misleading potential customers, or allowing them to be misled.
If you’d like further information about advertising, please contact me on 01908 660966 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of 123rf.com.