It is important that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Council has all the information it needs when making decisions on whether or not an advertiser’s marketing has breached the Advertising Codes.  Equally, to ensure that they fully understand the case being made against their ads, advertisers need to be aware of all the information on which Council will rely in coming to a decision.  To fully reflect this and ensure all parties are treated fairly, the ASA have recently updated our procedures.

The information Council has regard to can, in some circumstance, include evidence a complainant has supplied in support of their objections to an ad. They will always take this into account when deciding whether or not the advertiser has a case to answer but complainants should be aware that, if their evidence is to be relied on in any way by Council when coming to a decision, they must agree for it to be shared with the advertiser.  This is in the interests of allowing advertisers a fair opportunity to respond in full to the points being made against their marketing.  The ASA will make an assessment during the investigation of whether this information is relevant to it and needs to be disclosed.  If a complainant does not wish to agree to disclose their evidence, it will not form part of their assessment of the matter.

This procedure does not affect the requirements for an advertiser to be able to support their marketing claims and to make the basis for comparative claims available.  Advertisers are still responsible for ensuring that they don’t mislead those who see their ads and that they can substantiate any claims that they make that might affect the behaviour of consumers. On the complainant’s request, the ASA will disclose their evidence only after the advertiser has supplied their initial response and information in support of their claims.

For clarity, by “evidence” they mean documentary information supplied in addition to the point of complaint; it doesn’t include a simple description of the circumstances that led the complainant to come to the ASA or an expression of the complainant’s opinion or interpretation of a claim.  The policy on only disclosing the identity of non-public complainants (including competitors or other organisations) is also unchanged.

Source: ASA website.