Email and the Law

Take notice of the ASA’s notices

It was fun. The sign gave everyone who saw it a bit of a laugh and provided a talking point. On top of that, it demonstrated the type of premises, in this case an arty café run by youngsters for, it was suggested, the young at heart.

It intrigued me and in the two minutes I was taking photograph, others came up and apparently enjoyed it. Surely it would not offend the sensibilities of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The people whom you should avoid upsetting are those on your email marketing list who might complain to the ASA. This would start a process which could lead to an investigation. If that happened then you would have misjudged the subscribers to your email marketing list. 

The ASA has been accused of having no teeth and to an extent this is true. All it can do is look into a complaint, come to a decision and inform the company and ask them to modify their behaviour in the future. So no need to concern yourself.

The Electronic Healing Company markets alternative therapies, their advertising for which has occupied the regulator’s time recently. A complaint from 2012 over unsupported claims for the health benefits of its products generated criticism from the ASA. The company failed to respond to the notice and, a rather costly error, failed to change its criticised content in its email marketing and website. 

Fast forward to this year and a fine and costs totalling £16,000 showed that whilst the ASA might not have punitive powers, it could inform the Office of Fair Trading, which has a full set.

So what would the ASA think of a jocular advert for free beer? 

Much would depend on what you are offering. Free beer is not an unknown in email marketing so there is every possibility that it would be deemed a breech of regulations. How about a free trip to Jupiter? If the company was a supplier of astronomical equipment it might be a reasonable assumption that their subscribers would guess the journey was by telescope. Is that a risk worth taking? 



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