Beware what you say on facebook…

Due to a recent change in the law, advertising regulation under the CAP Code has been extended to websites, Facebook and Twitter (and any other non-paid-for online space under your control such as other social networking sites). Previously the CAP Code had only applied to advertisements in newspapers, catalogues, posters and other media, with the digital remit only covering advertisements in emails and text messages and advertisements in paid-for space, such as banner and pop-up advertisements or keyword advertising on search engines.

The CAP Code says, amongst many other things, that advertising should:

  • be legal, decent, honest and truthful.
  • be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society.
  • respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business.
  • not mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or otherwise

This means that not only as a business owner you must check your own website and all other promotional materials to ensure that they comply with the CAP Code and other marketing regulations, but that anyone contributing to your Facebook page, blog or twitter etc (such as a Virtual Assistant) and anyone blogging or tweeting on your behalf (as many staff are encouraged to do) will need to be aware of, and comply with the Code.

The CAP Code can be found here and a free advertising checklist that you can provide to your staff or virtual assistant (or use yourself) can be found here.

The Advertising Standards Authority is generally reactive in that it tends to deal with complaints received rather than actively reviewing marketing communications. However it is worth noting that the ASA’s sanctions are also being increased so that it can:

  • Name and shame offenders, both on the ASA’s website and on paid-for advertisements on internet search engines which highlight continued non-compliance.
  • Remove paid-for search advertisements that link directly to the non-compliant marketing communication on the advertiser’s own website or other non-paid-for space online under its control.

Having said that, the sanctions for breaches of the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations (the BPRs) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (the CPRs) include fines of up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years so you do need to take advertising regulation seriously. If in doubt about whether your advertising or promotions are complying with all applicable regulations, use our advertising compliance checklist. (*This is an exclusive list available to the Women Unlimited community for the next 3 weeks!)

For details about free webinars and more practical legal advice for small businesses, go to www.lawyers4mumpreneurs.com and sign up for our newsletter.

© Suzanne Dibble, business law expert 2013

The information contained above is based on English law only and is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to amount to advice on which reliance should be placed. Suzanne disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on such information. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the above contents.

 

 

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