ASA’s regulatory powers extended to include internet

by Alister POOLE on September 6, 2010

Travel companies that choose to publicise their services online will now come under the Advertising Standards Authority’s regulations beginning next year.

The British ad watchdog will extend its scope to encompass online marketing and advertisements as well beginning 1 March 2011. This will also include social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. At present ASA’s regulatory powers only incorporate traditional advertising mediums such as TV and print.

According to ASA it received more than 4,500 complaints since 2008 regarding the validity of online adverts. It confirmed the biggest issue to date was misleading price quotes and admitted that until now it could not deal with them because it was outside it’s jurisdiction.

A spokeswoman for ASA said that it can investigate complaints and publicly call-out the companies that are refusing to comply with the regulatory body’s rulings. It can also require search engines to completely remove ‘paid-for’ links to any dodgy advertising.

The Air Transport Users Council, the watchdog for the UK aviation industry, said that it welcomed the extension of ASA’s power, but said that the Civil Aviation Authority should also have the power to regulate air passengers against misleading prices online and otherwise.

Lord Smith, former Labour culture secretary and the chairman of ASA, said that the extension of ASA’s remit has the protection of consumers and children at its core value. He added further that once the ruling is enforced by the CAA, then air passengers will no longer have to deal with airlines and travel sites offering misleading price quotes anymore.

The regulation extension will begin early next year and widen ASA’s scope significantly. So far, no major industry players that will be affected by the move have come forward to comment.

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