NEWS: Loophole allows Friends of the Earth Internet ad to avoid regulation

Friends of the Earth cannot be forced by law to withdraw the banned cinema ad which it is continuing to place on the Internet, according to a senior media lawyer.

Friends of the Earth cannot be forced by law to withdraw the banned

cinema ad which it is continuing to place on the Internet, according to

a senior media lawyer.



Loopholes in the rules governing ad regulation mean that the pressure

group’s advertising is beyond statutory control, said Charles Swan, a

partner with the leading advertising lawyers, the Simkins Partnership.



The industry’s regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Authority,

normally has recourse to a legal backstop in disputes with stubborn

transgressors of its codes. However, the Control of Misleading

Advertisement Regulations Act (1988) defines ads in a way which does not

cover most of the advertising by charities and pressure groups, Swan

said.



The act, which was drawn up before charity and pressure group

advertising came under regulatory control in early 1993, defines an

‘advertisement’ as being made ‘in order to promote the supply or

transfer of goods or services, immovable property, rights or

obligations’.



Swan said none of these applied to the FoE ad, which exhorts people not

to buy mahogany because indigenous people are allegedly dying at the

hands of loggers in the Brazilian rainforest.



Grahame Fowler, a spokes-man for the ASA, accepted that the loopholes

existed, but added: ‘Our primary sanction is the generation of negative

publicity. When you get a barrage of stories telling the public you have

misled them, that cannot be good for any brand.’



The loophole means that FoE could also go back into cinema. However,

media owners would probably block this because they support the ASA’s

self-regulatory codes.