Regulator to introduce new ad appeal system

Britain’s advertising watchdogs this week bowed under growing pressure to overhaul the system of appeals against their rulings.

Britain’s advertising watchdogs this week bowed under growing

pressure to overhaul the system of appeals against their rulings.

Stung by criticism that the Advertising Standards Authority acts as

judge and jury in its own court, they are scrapping the current

procedure under which appeals are considered by the ASA’s chairman, Lord


That role will now be taken over by an independent reviewer, Sir John

Caines, a former career civil servant, who will decide whether ASA

rulings should be set aside.

The move acknowledges the growing discontent of aggrieved advertisers

over the past three years, some of whom have turned to the courts to get

ASA rulings overturned.

Each legal skirmish puts ASA procedures under more scrutiny and the

sequence of rows has threatened to expose what some legal experts see as

the ASA’s vulnerability in not having an independent body to rule on

disputed decisions.

The ASA says it received 88 appeals against its decisions over the past

four years, 14 of which were upheld.

Rodgers said the current procedures had operated well but admitted:

’There is much to be said for an outside reviewer clearly detached from

the day-to-day process by which complaints to the ASA are investigated

and judged.’

Caines was the permanent secretary at the Department of Education when

he retired in 1993 after 36 years in the civil service. Since then, he

has been deputy chairman of the Investor Compensation Scheme. He will be

assisted with his adjudications by Rodgers and Brian Nicholson, the

Advertising Standards Board of Finance’s chairman.

The ASA has twice emerged victorious in recent years over legal

challenges to its rulings. In December 1996, it won a landmark High

Court ruling when two appeals against its verdicts by the Dixons retail

chain were thrown out by a judge.

The following year, the High Court again backed the ASA against the

International Fund for Animal Welfare which attempted to have an ASA

ruling against it declared illegal.


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