Insights Online advertising: UK Taskforce publishes action plan


In 2022, the Government consulted on an Online Advertising Programme to review the regulatory framework for paid-for online advertising. In the consultation outcome, published in July 2023, the Government committed to introducing new legislation and to publishing a further consultation on the details of such legislation. It also committed to the creation of the Online Advertising Taskforce bringing together industry and government to build an evidence base and drive forward non-legislative action building on self-regulatory and co-regulatory systems already in place. The Taskforce’s Terms of Reference state that the Taskforce will improve transparency and accountability in the online advertising supply chain and will do so by delivering a plan of work to address illegal advertising and minimise children being served advertising for products and services which are illegal for children (“in-scope harms”) in anticipation of regulation being introduced.

The action plan, published on 30 November 2023, sets out how the Taskforce will understand and improve evidence around the in-scope harms and identify ways in which it can enhance current voluntary initiatives. The plan provides, for example, that the Government, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and Stop Scams UK will undertake and publish further research on advertising harms, the Taskforce will consider how information can best be shared between industry, government and regulators to increase understanding of advertising harms (including fraudulent advertising) and to facilitate the ASA’s work, the Taskforce will promote best practice to tackle in-scope harms and publish a progress report on the action plan, and the Government will introduce a duty relating to misleading advertising into primary legislation.

The plan also highlights work that can be done to improve current voluntary measures such as the ASA determining next steps for the Intermediary and Platform Principles (reported by Wiggin previously), IAB UK and others increasing adoption of the Gold Standard Certification, ISBA increasing adoption of better standards for influencer advertising by means of a further iteration of its Influencer Marketing Code of Conduct, and ISBA and others taking action to increase standards of age assurance.

The plan also refers to the requirements of the Online Safety Act 2023 to protect children from illegal and harmful content by means of age verification or age assurance, and the duties on some platforms to address fraudulent advertising including a transparency reporting obligation the information from which should help to improve the evidence base for fraudulent advertising.

Finally, the plan includes a task for Government to issue the consultation seeking views on proposed legislation which should include a more granular definition of the in-scope harms.

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