New regulations to online content are being brought in on the 1st March. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is going to extend the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP code) to cover all online content in control of a brand or organisation. This includes marketing content that the brand posts on its own website and onh social media.
The CAP Code covers:
Distance selling - Marketers must make sure their advertisement complies with a long list of factors, including identity and geographic address, the main product detail, price including VAT, delivery charge and how the customer has the right to cancel orders.
Privacy – Marketers musty not unfairly portray anyone in an offensive way unless that person gives the marketer written permission to do it. This is relevant for mentions in Social News feeds.
Harm and Offence – Marketers have to make sure that content you post on social network sites does not contain anything likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Mentioning Competitors – Any competitors products used for comparison must meet the same need or intended for the same purpose and must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products.
Substantiation – marketers must have documentation to prove objective claims otherwise they may be punished as being misleading.
Exaggeration – Exaggerating the capability or performance of a product may also be marked as being misleading.
Brands will have to work harder to ensure their website content stays within the new regulations but Social Media creates the dilemma of who owns the content, a post by a “fan” on a brands Facebook wall which is classed as shared media. If a fan’s post on a brand’s wall does not comply with the CAP code, there is the issue of what will happen. Will the brand have to take it down? And if it does, does it have the right to remove a fans comment as it doesn’t technically belong to them?
The regulations will see light hearted tweets and personal opinion on social networks by businesses less common. They may also discourage brands from interacting with customers through online conversation with the threat of breaking new regulations. Brands will have to watch their words and must have the ability to prove the context of what they say online.
The ASA is currently promoting these guidelines before the launch in March and will provide training to businesses who the new regulations will affect.