NEWS: ASA moves to end Net free-for-all

The Advertising Standards Authority is making the first attempt to stop the Internet from becoming a free-for-all for maverick advertisers.

The Advertising Standards Authority is making the first attempt to stop

the Internet from becoming a free-for-all for maverick advertisers.



The ASA said this week that it was trying to head-off potential problems

by launching a copy advice service for would-be Internet advertisers. It

also pledged to expose companies that deliberately flout the rules.



However, ASA executives admit they have no power to impose their

authority on the Internet, where advertisers are answerable to no-one,

and that the publicity weapon is the only one at their disposal.



The problem was highlighted at the beginning of the year when Friends of

the Earth exploited regulatory loopholes to run an Internet ad accusing

loggers in the Brazilian rainforest of murder. The ASA had already

banned the ad from cinemas (Campaign, 8 December 1995).



The ASA’s bid to bring some order to Internet advertising came as the

authority announced the launch of its own Website. It will offer advice

to advertisers and agencies and guidance to Internet users who want to

complain about ads.



For the time being, how-ever, consumers will have to continue to use

traditional means to voice their complaints. The ASA said that at the

moment it was not able to cope with a potential flood of complaints via

e-mail.



The authority said it did not expect problems from established

advertisers but that it was worried about small companies - particularly

those in the mail-order sector - that ask for money to be sent to

foreign box numbers.



Matti Alderson, the ASA director general, commented: ‘Our initiative is

being welcomed by everybody who wants to see the Internet accepted as a

credible medium. Currently, it is a complete free-for-all. The medium

can’t be fully policed because, unlike all the others, it doesn’t have a

‘gatekeeper’.’



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