More Ad Complaints Likely, Warns Britain's ASA

05 February 2004

Proposals to extend the remit of Britain's Advertising Standards Authority would lead to a large rise in ad complaints, the body has forecast.

Communications regulator Ofcom wants to hand day-to-day regulation of TV and radio commercials to the industry-run ASA, which at present oversees only non-broadcast advertising. This would create a 'one-stop-shop' for complaints against ads.

The ASA is in favour of the proposals, arguing they would "reduce existing confusion" as to whom the public should express its outrage. However, it warns the corollary will be a "substantial increase" in the number of complaints registered.

Over four thousand people mistakenly contacted the ASA last year after taking offence at a TV or radio ad. "Clearly, many people who have a reason to complain are passed from one regulator to another and simply give up in frustration or confusion," commented ASA chairman Lord Borrie.

"A one-stop shop would remove some of the current regulatory hurdles consumers have to leap just to have their complaints heard."

Under the proposals, Ofcom would retain backstop powers, but the ASA would oversee most of the regulatory process. A majority of Britons appear to back the scheme. In a poll conducted for the ASA, some 69% of the 1,004 respondents thought Ofcom should allow the industry body to handle broadcast complaints; 16% were opposed, while the rest did not know.

However, some lobby groups oppose increased self-regulation. The National Consumer Council recently accused Ofcom of "handing over its teeth" by giving more power to the ASA [WAMN: 22-Jan-04].

Ofcom is due to decide later this month whether the idea is workable.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff