The Advertising Standards Authority – fit for purpose?

I’ve just had a complaint responded to. The company concerned will now apparently withdraw their non evidenced based claim that their product “helps detect cancer early”.

This claim has been made for some time, it’s nonsense, and it’s right that it goes.

But: the letter from the ASA says that since the company will voluntarily amend their website, they will take no further action, it will be noted on their website  as an ‘informally resolved case’ (which means no details of their potentially dangerous previous advert and reason for it’s withdrawal) only, and I have to ‘treat the contents of this letter as confidential’, which presumably means that I’m not allowed to say which company offering supposedly early detection cancer devices (they aren’t) have amended their advertising.

So what will happen if I name the company and what they’ve said and what they’ve changed? Is this a system that is fit for purpose?



3 Responses to “The Advertising Standards Authority – fit for purpose?”

  1. Susie May 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    The ASA has no teeth (e.g.nearly 40 rebukes to Groupon but not referred to Trading Standards) and is self serving. It seems to bully the small operators and collude with the large ones. I imagine the ASA choose not to name names because they have no legal standing and can only request that companies change their advertising. If an operator chooses to ignore the ASA then there is little the ASA can do. I doubt the ASA want to make waves that will draw attention to their lack of substance.

  2. Alan Henness May 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    It’s an interesting point and one I don’t have the full answer to.

    However, you saw what was being said in the original advert – it was in the public domain – and you made the complaint. IANAL, but I can’t see any issue with you saying what you decided to complain about and why – surely that’s your prerogative?

    You could argue that what was said between the ASA and you as the complaint progressed is confidential, but the outcome – whether it’s informally resolved or an adjudication – is also public. Of course, you don’t know what was said between the ASA and the advertiser other than what ends up in an adjudication. Unfortunately!

    Maybe it’s something the ASA need to clarify?

    But the important thing (and I assume this is the ASA’s thinking as well) is that the misleading advert has been removed – that’s a win, regardless of whether there is an adjudication.

  3. Andy Lewis May 2, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Quite. It is not clear why making a complaint to the ASA somehow then puts you under an obligation to never discuss the issues you were concerned about. Or that you complained.Or that the claims have no gone after an informal resolution.