Dog with Not Guilty sign around his neckI’ve posted this as I wrote about this in my email newsletter back in September and someone asked me recently for the details again. Very important change for all businesses even us small ones!

A major change has been announced (August 2010) by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who are responsible for policing UK advertising (amongst a much broader remit!), that will affect every UK business that has a website or uses social media to promote its business.

The ASA’s current remit online includes ads in paid-for space and sales promotions wherever they appear. However, from March 2011, the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (fondly known as the CAP Code) will apply to ALL marketing communications online, including the rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children.

This new remit will apply to ALL sectors and all businesses, regardless of size.

The new ‘rules’ will cover:
• Your own marketing communications on your company website and;
• Marketing communications in any non-paid-for space under your control, so that includes social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Gulp!

The remit will come into force on 1 March 2011 after a six month period of grace to allow the ASA and CAP to conduct training work to raise awareness and educate us all on the requirements of these new rules.

The implication of this change is that ALL copy and messages on your website or in social media channels about your products or services must not be misleading, and be 100% true and accurate. Any claims you make about your product or service must be substantiated by robust, statistically significant research data e.g. “90% of our clients are very satisfied”.

As a marketing professional obviously I need to keep abreast of these changes and ensure any work I do for my clients complies (that’s part of my job and due diligence as a Chartered Marketer). However, if you do your own marketing ‘in house’ which I know a lot of you do, you will need to understand these new rules for yourself.

Unfortunately, like the Data Protection Act (DPA) it isn’t something small business owners can turn a blind eye to and plead ignorance. Sadly, as is often the case, the minority who exploit and misuse the web are causing more headaches for those of us who operate online with care and integrity. C’est la vie!