Advertising Standards

Your advertising and marketing material should be legal, decent, honest, true and capable of substantiation.  Misleading, exaggerated or dishonest marketing is not only illegal and unethical but it’s also usually damaging to your reputation.

The rules cover not only what you would think of as traditional advertising but also some website content.  For example, content which describes or provides information about a product or service may also be regulated.  This means that you should make sure information describing your service is up to date otherwise it might be illegal.

Advertising is regulated by law and by industry codes of conduct.  Breaching the industry codes is not illegal but a breach of the codes means that you are also likely to breach advertising laws.

The main advertising laws come from the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

The industry codes of practice are the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing and the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising.

There is far too much detail to reproduce in this note, but in summary, the consumer regulations ban:

  • Misleading actions. For example, providing misleading information such as exaggerating the size of your business, the quality of your offering, your experience or saying your business is growing/going from strength to strength when it’s not.
  • Misleading omissions. For example, failing to mention a key bit of information such as contract duration or hidden costs.
  • Aggressive practices. Such as targeting vulnerable or inexperienced customers.
  • Commercial practices which contravene professional diligence. This catches practices which don’t fall into any other category but are generally undesirable, unethical or lack integrity.

The business to business advertising rules ban advertising that misleads other businesses and sets down rules about comparative advertising.

The industry codes then set down detailed guidance about what you should do and how you demonstrate compliance.  For example, how you may substantiate your advertising claims.

There are also rules to be followed if you want to offer prize draws, promotions or competitions. These rules are aimed at providing information to participants and also avoiding a breach of our gaming laws.

The Advertising Standards Agency will consider complaints about advertising and will be the first agency to deal with the advertiser but if that is not successful it can refer the matter to Trading Standards for prosecution.

For further information please contact Victoria Spellman in the Business Services Team.

Victoria Spellman is a solicitor in the Business Services department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Business Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email