Complaints against email advertising rise 30-fold in 2003

LONDON - Complaints about email advertising rose 30-fold last year and the internet remains the fifth most complained about medium in the UK, according to the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority, which regulates all non-broadcast advertising in the UK, has said in its annual report that it received 1,100 complaints about internet advertising in 2003, an 8% rise on 2002.

However, it is complaints against email and SMS campaigns that have rocketed. In 2002, the ASA received only 17 complaints about email marketing campaigns but this figure rose to 455 in 2003. There were 65 complaints about text messaging campaigns in 2002, but 393 in 2003 -- a 500% increase.

One of the campaigns that the ASA ruled against was for the Tom Cruise film 'Minority Report', which saw a voice message left on recipients' mobile phones that included heavy breathing and a scream. It was ruled to be menacing and distressing and was banned because it was not made clear that it was an ad.

Another SMS ad, sent by Tornado Exec to people's mobile phones telling them that they had won £1,000, was also banned for being misleading.

The ASA said in its report that it was likely that the rise in complaints against commercial emails was influenced by publicity surrounding action against spam in the new CAP code.

Lord Borrie, chairman of the ASA, said: "The range of media available to advertisers is changing every year. The ASA is working to keep pace with both the advertising industry and technology to ensure effective and timely regulation in a digital age."

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