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Marketing and advertising regulation: introduction

The regulation of marketing (including in this context advertising) by businesses has developed significantly in recent years under the influence of EU law. Regulations introduced under EU law have superseded most of the former UK trade descriptions legislation.

Regulation of advertising and marketing in the UK is conducted partly on a self-regulatory basis via the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) which enforces the Advertising Codes and partly by legislation including chiefly:
* Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”)
* Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (“BPMMR”)
* Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (“CPUTR”)

The Data Protection Act 1998 is also relevant in the context of acquiring, maintaining and using lists of individuals as customers or prospective customers.

Broadly speaking, if a business complies with the Advertising Codes in its marketing practices, it will likely be compliant wth the above legislation, although CPUTR covers wider ground than the Advertising Codes because it regulates selling methods as well as purely advertising and marketing communications.

There are many statutes which affect the marketing of specific products including arms, foods, beverages, medicines etc which are too numerous to mention here. The Committee on Advertising Practice maintains a list (not exhaustive)

The Advertising Codes cover both business to business (“B2B”) and business to consumer (“B2C”) marketing communications.

The statutory rules referred to above underpin the Advertising Codes. As indicated by their titles, the BPMMR apply to B2B marketing and the CPUTR apply to B2C communications.

A number of government or officially sponsored schemes exist whereby small firms may obtain the benefit of subscribing to codes of practice or schemes which require standards of service higher than those required by the law.

The PECR apply to direct marketing by telephone, fax and email to private and (to some extent) to business subscribers.

The Data Protection Act applies to the processing of personal data relating to living individuals. Therefore marketing communications addressed to businesses rather than named individuals at those businesses are outside the scope of the Act.

These subjects are dealt with in the following sections:

Advertising Codes


Advertising to businesses and    comparative advertising


Advertising to consumer regulations


Approved trader schemes


Direct marketing by telephone, email,    text message, fax and post


Data protection in relation to marketing

Prize competitions: prize competitions, free draws etc. for promotional purposes must be structured such that thet do not fall foul of the law on gaming; see Betting, gaming and lotteries

Claims of charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes: such claims may require a 'representation statement'; see Finance and funding for charities - England and Wales

Legaleze comment: if you carry out any advertising or marketing, as an owner or manager of a business, you will need to have an understanding of these matters. If you carry out direct marketing to businesses and/or individual consumers, you need to ensure that sales staff are adequately trained in these matters and that your systems can deal with checking, cleaning and maintenance of mailing or prospect lists of customers in order to ensure that you and your business do not fall foul of the Advertising Codes or the statutory rules.

Further reading

For general background, see: the ASA website

For the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations:

> OFT's guidance on advertising to consumers regulations
> Department of Business basic guide for business

[Page updated: 18/06/2015]

 

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Marketing and advertising regulation    introduction
Advertising Codes
Advertising to businesses and    comparative advertising
Advertising to consumer regulations
Approved trader schemes
Direct marketing by telephone, email,    text message, fax and post
Data protection in relation to marketing