The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent self-regulatory body committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland, is reminding advertisers that any claims being made for products and services referring to Covid-19 should be adequately substantiated.
The ASAI is issuing the reminder due to the fact that it has received complaints about a number of advertisements for products and services relating to Covid-19 on the grounds that they are misleading. While the number of complaints is not significant, the ASAI considers that it is absolutely necessary to remind all advertisers of the need to advertiser responsibly and to avoid claims that undermine public health advice or exploit people’s anxieties.
Advertisers are required to adhere to the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland, which applies to all commercial marketing communications. As stated in the ASAI Code, a marketing communication should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
As a result, the advertiser must be in a position substantiate all claims, expressed or implied that the ad conveys to reasonable consumers.
In the context of substantiation, the importance of protecting the consumer from false or misleading advertising is particularly reflected in Section 4.9 of the Code, as follows:
A marketing communication should not contain claims – whether direct or indirect, expressed or implied – which a consumer would be likely to regard as being objectively true unless the objective truth of the claims can be substantiated.
Further substantiation requirements specific to health claims are contained in Section 11.1 as follows:
Claims about health and beauty products and treatments should be backed by substantiation. Where relevant, this should include the results of robust and reputable trials on human subjects, of sufficient rigour, design and execution as to warrant general acceptance of the results.
Non-adherence to the Code may ultimately result in the ASAI upholding a breach under the Code and which may be published in the general media.