Insights Committees of Advertising Practice publish advice on how to avoid being a repeat offender.

CAP says that its Compliance team’s repeat offender monitoring is an integral part of the work it does.  If an advertiser repeatedly breaches the Code, CAP will intervene and take action.  This usually starts with advice and guidance, but for repeatedly misleading advertisers CAP can apply sanctions or ultimately refer the offender to Trading Standards.

Overall, CAP says, repeat problems are declining, but “there is still work to do”.  When reviewing advertisers’ records, CAP often finds that breaches are not in fact indicative of deep-rooted compliance problems.  Rather, they involve easy-to-fix issues that probably could have been avoided by a tightening of procedure or a final check pre-publication.

The Compliance team’s top five avoidable issues are found across advertisers in different sectors:

  • Promotions – closing dates: the closing date of a promotion is a significant condition, CAP says, and should be made clear. They should not be changed except in very limited circumstances.  Consumers expect advertisers to be up front when running promotions;
  • Prices – product shown: although this is a simple one, CAP says, it happens more often than people think. The advice is, therefore, to make sure that the prices match the product shown: do not use higher specification products or show collections or sets of products if it is not clear that the consumer does not get everything shown;
  • “Free” claims: consumers do not like hidden conditions or unclear offers and will complain, CAP says. There is plenty of advice on free claims and free trials on CAP’s website.  The advice is to double-check “free” claims before they are released;
  • Significant conditions/qualifications: offers that are only valid under certain conditions, or claims that need to be qualified, must be clear and upfront; and
  • Product descriptions: these often seem like copywriting slips, CAP says, but consumers expect a product to be as described. Descriptions must not be misleading through exaggeration or material information being omitted and advertisers must hold evidence to substantiate objective claims, CAP says.

To read CAP’s advice note in full and for links to other guidance, click here.