Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) is an independent self-regulatory body set up and financed by the advertising industry and committed in the public interest to promoting the highest standards of advertising and sales promotion. The Authority's aim is to ensure that all commercial advertisements and promotions are "legal, decent, honest and truthful". If you come across a commercial advertisement that you feel does not meet these standards, you can complain to the ASAI.
Self-regulation involves the adoption by the advertising industry of standards drawn up by and on behalf of all advertising interests and the enforcement of those standards through the commitment and co-operation of advertisers, agencies and the media.
The rules governing advertising are set out in the Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing in Ireland, drawn up by the Board of the ASAI following detailed consultation with all relevant interests, including consumer representatives and government departments.
Members of the ASAI must abide by the Codes and not publish an advertisement or conduct a promotion that contravenes Code rules.
General rules for advertisements
- Be legal, decent, honest and truthful
- Be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society
- Respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business
- Respect the spirit as well as the letter of the Code of Advertising Standards
- Avoid bringing advertising into disrepute
The chief responsibility for observing the Code rests with advertisers. Other parties involved in the preparation and publication of advertisements, for example, radio and television stations, newspapers, magazines, journals and advertising agencies, also accept an obligation to abide by the Code.
Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASAI's enquiries may be considered a breach of the Code.
The ASAI will observe advertisers' requests to treat any material they supply in strict confidence, unless the courts or an official agency acting within its statutory powers compels its disclosure.
What kinds of advertisements are covered?
The Code of Advertising Standards applies to the following advertisements:
- Advertisements in newspapers, magazines and other printed publications, including "free sheets"
- Posters and other promotional media in public places, including moving images
- Brochures, leaflets, circulars, mailings and fax transmissions
- Commercials broadcast on television or radio or screened in cinemas
- Advertisements carried on audiotapes, videotapes, viewdata services and other electronic and computer systems
- Sales promotion material
- Advertisement features and promotions
The Code does not apply to:
- Statutory, public, Garda and other official notices
- Material published as a matter of record only
- Packages, wrappers, labels and tickets, unless they advertise another product or a sales promotion or are recognisable in an advertisement
- Point-of-sale displays
- Advertisements whose main purpose is to express the advertiser's position on a political, religious, industrial relations, social or aesthetic matter or on an issue of public interest or concern
- Classified private advertisements including those online
- Press releases and other public relations material
- The content of books and editorial material in the media
- Private correspondence
- Oral communications including by telephone
- Works of art
- Specialised advertisements addressed to the medical and allied professions
- Content of premium rate services
- Advertisements in foreign media
- Sponsorship (advertising about sponsorship is covered)
- Investor relations and corporate material
- Website content such as, editorial content, news or corporate reports
- Certain heritage advertising that is published in an appropriate context
Online Behavioural Advertising
Since September 2013, the Code contains rules about Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA). OBA involves the practice of collecting information from your web browser and using the information to present online advertisementss that are more relevant to you, when you are browsing online. Companies involved in OBA must provide notice about the collection and use of web viewing behaviour data for the purposes of OBA, including how web users can opt out from receiving OBA. There is more information about OBA and the actions you can take in relation to OBA on the ASAI website.
How complaints are investigated
The complaint is evaluated initially by the Secretariat of the ASAI to determine whether it is within the terms of reference of the Authority and whether there is a case for investigation. Where there is a case to answer, the advertiser or promoter (or the agency involved) is informed of the complaint and invited to comment on it. In the light of any response, the Secretariat prepares a recommendation to the Complaints Committee and sends a copy to the complainant and the advertiser who have an opportunity to express further views in the matter before it is adjudicated.
The ASAI Complaints Committee decides whether or not Code rules have been breached. The Complaints Committee consists of five people who are professionally involved in the advertising business and eight independent members. Four of these independent members are nominated by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Details of the case, including the names of the advertiser and the advertising agency involved together with the Committee's adjudication, are set out in a Case Report, which is issued to the parties involved and released for publication. The name of the complainant is confidential. An advertisement or promotion that breaks the rules must be withdrawn or quickly amended.
The investigation procedure may be accelerated where circumstances warrant and if a case is particularly serious, the Secretariat may request interim action (i.e., immediate withdrawal or amendment of the advertisement), pending the completion of the investigation.
Complaints to the ASAI are investigated free of charge. If you are complaining as an individual or as a group of consumers, your identity remains confidential and will not be revealed.
How to apply
If you object to a commercial advertisement on TV, radio, the Internet, posters, brochures, newspapers, magazines, cinema, direct mailings, etc., or to sales promotional material, you should contact the ASAI by letter, fax, email or using an online form with your full name and address. Remember to include (if you can):
- A copy of the advertisement, (i.e. press, magazine, etc)
- When and where it appeared
- The name of the advertiser
- In the case of sales promotions, the name of the product and the promoter and copies of labels, leaflets or entry forms
- Reasons why you consider the advertisement to be wrong
- Whether you are objecting as an individual consumer or as a competitor.