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Responsible Advertising means effective Self-Regulation

Facts about advertising self-regulation

  1. Advertising self-regulation does not replace statutory legislation but complements an existing framework of law to provide robust and proportionate consumer protection with advantages for consumers, business and governments.
    • In the few cases where this is needed, provisions for a legal backstop ensure that companies can be taken to court if in continued breach of a self-regulatory code. Effective self-regulation offers consumers a double layer of protection.
    • On top of the legal backstop, advertising self-regulation includes stringent sanctions for advertisers in breach of codes. These comprise 'naming and shaming' (publication of decisions), the withdrawal of the advertisement, obligatory copy advice for future campaigns and withdrawal of trading privileges.
    • Self-regulation supports a legislative framework. Self-regulation deals with legitimate, mainstream advertisers while authorities are freed up to deal with rogue traders.
    • Copy advice and pre-clearance systems are often used to improve compliance with self-regulatory codes before ads are aired.
    • Self-regulation operates at no charge to the consumer or government. Yet, statutory regulation and enforcement ultimately place a financial and bureaucratic burden on the consumer.
    • Self-regulation is dynamic and flexible. Technology and market conditions evolve at an astounding speed. In contrast to the lengthy procedures required for adopting and reviewing statutory regulation, advertising self-regulation is a highly flexible and responsive form of regulation; regular reviews ensure that codes are proportionate and respond to consumer concerns.
    • This flexibility means that self-regulatory systems can respond quickly and proactively to sensitive issues in advertising, such as children, food, and alcohol. Sectoral codes can add specifics that apply to a particular category of goods or services or advertising techniques used.
    • Advertising self-regulation promotes best practice. Being industry-sponsored, both in terms of financing and content, advertisers have an incentive to abide by both the spirit and letter of the codes.
    • Self-regulation can deal with cross-border complaints across the European Single Market.
  2. Industry recognises that it has an especially important responsibility with respect to advertising to children.
    • The advertising industry has made a commitment to develop and implement especially high standards of self-regulation in the area of advertising to children. Self-regulatory codes include very detailed provisions in this area.
    • When relating to children, advertising self-regulation is often more restrictive than statutory law.
    • In addition to self-regulatory codes themselves, the ICC has issued further interpretative guidelines, such as the “Framework for Responsible Food and Beverage Communications” which offers detailed interpretation of existing codes.
  3. Self-regulation involves a wide range of stakeholders, both in terms of the content of the codes and decision of complaints.
    • Advertising self-regulation is the results of a regular dialogue with stakeholders, both in terms of the content of the codes and decision of complaints:
    • Advertising self-regulatory codes are developed on the basis of a multi-stakeholder consultation and wide-ranging consensus that reach beyond industry interests.
    • Complaints are handled by adjudication committees comprising a wide variety of stakeholders, thus ensuring impartial decisions.
  4. Independent studies show that advertising self-regulation ensures high levels of consumer protection.
    • Advertising self-regulation has repeatedly been commended by non-industry commentators for its effectiveness in ensuring a high level of consumer protection.
    • Studies undertaken by the European Commission point out that advertising self-regulation “seem[s] to be especially successful with respect to the application of rules on advertising and the protection of minors”.
  5. Industry relies on consumer confidence and adapts to societal changes.
    • The advertising industry recognises that while markets and societal expectations change, advertising self-regulation must adapt and ensure that it meets consumer demands. We continue to work with all our partners to ensure that advertising self-regulation across the enlarged European Union provides a high level of consumer protection based on five principles:
      • Awareness and resources- Knowing how and where to complain
      • Transparency and openness- Complaint-handling takes place in the public domain
      • Effectiveness- Complaint handling is rapid and flexible
      • Teeth”- Effective industry sanctions are combined with recourse to the courts when needed
      • Free access- It is a self-financing system with no charge to the consumer or government

Systems of advertising self-regulation

The industry has established self-regulatory systems in many countries to ensure that national codes of conduct and their provisions on advertising to children are applied effectively.
  • For an overview of self-regulatory organisations in more than 50 countries, see the WFA global overview.
  • Access the Self-Regulatory Organisations (SRO's)i in the countries around the world, for further details.
  • The European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) brings together national advertising self-regulatory organisations and organisations representing the advertising industry in Europe who support self-regulation. Funded by industry, its mission is to promote responsible advertising through best practice in self-regulation across the European Single Market for the benefit of consumers and business. It is the single authoritative voice on European Advertising self-regulation.
  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as the world business organization, promotes high standards of business ethics through the development and dissemination of rules, including codes and guidelines on how business should direct its efforts to assure that commercial communications to consumers are responsible. ICC’s longstanding view is that commercial communications are best regulated by effective self-regulation within a legal framework that protects consumers from false and misleading claims. The Commission on Marketing and Advertising of ICC has prepared a Framework for Responsible Food and Beverage Communications (June 2004) with specific provisions relating to the advertising of food and beverages vis-à-vis children.
  • A number of studies into the effects of television advertising on minors have been conducted by the European Commission's Directorate General for Education and Culture (EAC). One in particular gives a comprehensive overview by European Union member state: Study on the impact of television advertising and teleshopping on minors (Contractor: INRA ( Europe) / Bird & Bird).