Telling the truth about SME life today

Beware of what you say on websites, Facebook and Twitter

One year ago, on March 1, 2011, advertising regulation extended its remit to websites, Facebook and Twitter (and any other non-paid-for online spaces under your control such as other social networking sites).

The Committee of Advertising (CAP) Code says, among other things, that advertising should:

  • be legal, decent, honest and truthful
  • be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society
  • respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business
  • not mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or otherwise

This means that not only must business owners check their own website to ensure that it complies with the CAP Code, but that anyone contributing to your Facebook page, blog or Twitter (such as a virtual assistant or social media exec) will need to be aware of, and comply with, the CAP Code.

The CAP Code can be found here.

The Advertising Standards Authority is generally reactive in that it tends to deal with complaints received rather than actively reviewing marketing communications.

This may influence your approach to compliance. However, it’s worth noting that the ASA’s sanctions are also being increased so that it can:

  • name and shame offenders, both on the ASA’s website and on paid-for advertisements on internet search engines which highlight continued non-compliance
  • remove paid-for search advertisements that link directly to the non-compliant marketing communication on the advertiser’s own website or other non-paid-for space online under its control

Are your marketing communications in order?

Suzanne Dibble is an award-winning business lawyer, demystifying business law for small business through her website Lawyers4Mumpreneurs.


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