Liberal Democrats criticise the ASA for its lack of vigilance

The Liberal Democrats are to call for the Advertising Standards Authority to ’beef up its act’ in a move that will embarrass the ASA’s chairman, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.

The Liberal Democrats are to call for the Advertising Standards

Authority to ’beef up its act’ in a move that will embarrass the ASA’s

chairman, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.



Rodgers, the leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, tried to head off the

attack by defending the authority’s work in talks with Norman Baker, the

Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman on consumer affairs.



But Baker is to press ahead with drawing up plans to warn the ASA that

the Liberal Democrats will call for a statutory body to police

advertising unless the authority takes a tougher line on advertisers

that persistently flout the industry’s code of practice.



Baker is worried that the ASA has used its power to refer cases to the

Office of Fair Trading on only three occasions since 1997. He is

particularly worried by what he called its failure to clamp down on ads

for cosmetic surgery.



Baker said: ’I am not convinced that the ASA follows through when such

examples are brought to its attention. I am not sure it is tough enough

with advertisers.



’The question is whether what is essentially a trade body can be as

tough as it needs to be. The number of references to the OFT is quite

small.’



Baker went on to say that the Liberal Democrats wanted to see an

improvement in the ASA’s performance. If that did not happen, he warned,

the party would call for statutory regulation.



When Baker tabled Commons questions about the effectiveness of the ASA,

Kim Howells, the consumer affairs minister, told him: ’We remain of the

view that the ASA is a good example of effective self-regulation. It has

succeeded in maintaining standards in the field of advertising.’



Live Issue, p22.



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