The Purpose of Advertising self-regulation
Advertising self-regulation is the advertising industry’s ability and willingness to regulate itself responsibly, by actively promoting the highest ethical standards in commercial communications and safeguarding consumers’ interests. Historically, advertising self-regulation has helped address many societal concerns and, in some cases, put an end to previous questionable advertising practices. One such example would be limiting the exposure of young children to advertising for food and beverage products, in an effort to promote health, nutrition and to prevent child obesity. In general, adverting self-regulation demonstrates advertising bodies internal systems and measures of dealing with issues concerning commercial communications and consumers’ well-being, without entangling themselves in time-consuming and costly legal disputes.
Advertising self-regulation in Europe
The European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) acts as the European coordination point for advertising self-regulatory bodies and systems across Europe and represents the single voice of the advertising industry in Europe on advertising self-regulation. The EASA’s purposes are to encourage best practice and common high standards in advertising self-regulation, to incentivize improvements, where necessary, of national self-regulatory systems, to work towards establishing homogenous principles of best practice and the greater convergence of the key principles across Europe.
The EASA has published the Standards of Best Practice, aiming to help advertising bodies, as well as national Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs’) on improving their methods for self-regulation and to promote a harmonized set oh higher standards for responsible advertising across all Member States. In the Standards of Best Practice, the EASA provide a number of principles that underpin a successful self-regulating system. We note some of the important principles below:
- Consumer interests: self-regulation of advertising should always strive to maintain the consumers’ trust in advertising, by offering rapid and effective response practices to consumers’ concerns. This practice ensures that consumer protection is in the forefront, by offering consumers the chance to express their views directly to the advertising business and as such the advertising business will also be seen to be actively, continuously, and responsibly engaged with the consumer.
- Independence: self-regulation of advertising should be impartial at all times and any measures or decisions to that effect should be taken independently and not swayed by any specific interests.
- Transparency and Accessibility: any complaint process implemented for the benefit of consumers should be easy to use and at no cost to the average consumer. The consumers must be duly informed of their right to submit their concerns and complaints and, most importantly, the outcome of the complaint process must be transparent.
- Effectiveness: self-regulation must be and seen to be effective, in both its operation and outcome. Successful self-regulating measures should be rapid, flexible, current. It is important that any self-regulatory procedures be applied in both the spirit and the letter, and regularly reviewed.
- Compliance with the Law: self-regulation should always take inspiration and form itself around the basis of the national legal framework. Thus, it is critical that self-regulation to always be in compliance with the national law, and no part of the self-regulatory process should deprive a consumer of the protection provided by the law.
Another key aspect highlighted in the EASA’s Standards of Best Practice is the cooperation of advertising bodies and businesses with the National SRO’s. It must be noted that SROs act as effective supervisory mechanism with the purpose of monitoring voluntary commitments made by the advertising businesses to regulate themselves. Advertising self-regulation in conjunction with SRO cooperation also works to ensure compliance of other advertising business, by reporting instances of non-compliance, where applicable.
Advertising self-regulation in Cyprus
As established above, active cooperation with the National SRO’s can be quite beneficial for upholding the high standards of self-regulation and ensuring compliance for advertising bodies and businesses. While the self-policing of advertising businesses depends on intra-industry rules set in place the businesses themselves, it must also be mentioned that, in Cyprus, the national SRO is the Cyprus Advertising Regulation Organization (CARO). It is important to note that, since 2013, CARO has been an active member of EASA and has been responsible for ensuring that advertising businesses uphold the standards and principles set by the EASA and handling both a national and cross border complaints system.
It is encouraged that advertising businesses and advertising bodies become more knowledgeable in these core values of self-regulation. As we it has been showcased above self-regulation provides an essential complement to national legislation governing advertising. It has a crucial role in improving consumer confidence in advertising. Advertising business should actively strive on implementing an effective set of rules and procedures for self-regulation and also be well informed in regards to the procedures and rules set by the National SRO, both to ensure their own compliance as well as compliance of other advertising businesses and bodies within the industry.
The full text of the Standards of Best Practices by the EASA for Advertising Self-regulation can be accessed here.
For more information on the Cyprus Advertising Regulation Organization, please visit their page here.