Complain about advertising
There are laws in place to protect you from being misled about products and services. Businesses are not allowed to make statements in advertising that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression.
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) is the main body for enforcing rules around advertising but there are other bodies who set standards for particular sectors.
You can find out more about the rules that protect you from misleading advertising.
This document explains where you can go to complain, if you feel a business has misled you about a particular product or service or you object to the content in an advert.
Complaint to the 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. Its role is to promote high standards of advertising and sales promotion. It publishes a Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications (the ASAI Code).
You can read more about the ASAI Code and other rules banning misleading advertising.
What can I complain about?
You can complain to the ASAI about:
- Misleading or false advertising
- Content in an advert that you object to
The ASAI will consider complaints about the content of a commercial marketing communication. A commercial marketing communication includes content in an advertisement, promotion, or direct mail that appeared on:
- TV or radio
- Newspapers and magazines
- Emails and direct mailings
- Promotional sales materials
There is no charge to make a complaint and your identity will remain confidential at all times.
How do I make a complaint to the ASAI?
You can put your complaint to the ASAI by letter or through its online complaint form. Make sure to include:
- Your full name and address
- A screen shot of the advertisement (if online)
- A copy of the advertisement, if possible (for example, a press or magazine clipping)
- 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
How is my complaint investigated?
The ASAI will review your complaint to check if it is an issue that is under its remit and if an investigation is needed. If the ASAI decides to investigate your complaint, it will inform the advertiser (or the agency involved). The adviser has 10 days to respond to the ASAI and comment on the investigation.
When a response is received, a summary of the case and the ASAI’s recommendation is provided to the Complaints Committee. The ASAI sends a copy of this recommendation to you and the other party. You can provide further information or comments before the Complaints Committee decide on whether or not the advert has breached the code rules.
The Complaints Committee prepare a Case Report, which includes details of the case and the Committee’s final decision. The Case Report is given to you and the other party and released for publication. Your name remains confidential and will not be revealed.
When an advertisement or promotion is in breach of the ASAI Code it must be withdrawn from public view or quickly amended according to the Committee’s instructions.
If the breach is particularly serious, the investigation procedure may be fast-tracked. The ASAI may also request urgent action to be taken by the advertiser or agency. This could be the immediate withdrawal or amendment of the advert while the investigation is being completed.
The ASAI will tell you if your complaint does not fall under the remit of the ASAI, or it decides an investigation is not appropriate (and the reason). The ASAI may refer you to another organisation for help.
What other organisations can I complain to?
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
If you feel that an advertisement is misleading or false, you can report the matter to the CCPC.
The CCPC is responsible for enforcing the rules around business advertising in Ireland and can take action, where appropriate.
The CCPC cannot get compensation for you where you have made a bad buying decision as a result of misleading advertising. You may have a case against the advertiser for compensation using the Small Claims Court (under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980).
The CCPC has more information about misleading advertising.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)
The BAI regulates both commercial and public service broadcasting. Broadcasters must follow the BAI Code. If you have a complaint about advertising, sponsorship, teleshopping or product placement on tv or radio in Ireland, you must make your complaint to the broadcaster first. If you are not satisfied with the response from the broadcaster, you can complain to the BAI.
The BAI has more information about making a complaint.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)
The FSAI is responsible for the advertisement of food products. You can contact the FSAI if you have a complaint about misleading information on food products that affects, or is likely to affect, your buying decision.
The FSAI and ASAI have published guidance about marketing terms to describe food (for example use of the terms artisan/artisanal, farmhouse, traditional or natural). There are also EU rules about using the word ‘organic’ in food labelling. You can read more about product labelling.
You can complain to the FSAI using the online complaint form. The FSAI has more information about making a complaint about food products.
The Central Bank of Ireland
You can complain to the Central Bank if you feel an ad for a financial product or service is misleading. Rules on advertisements for financial products are in the Consumer Protection Code and the Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders (pdf). You can find out more about the advertising of credit and complaining about financial services firms.