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
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
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.