The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland issues reminder to advertisers not to make unsubstantiated or misleading claims about Covid-19

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent self-regulatory body committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland, is reminding advertisers that any claims being made for products and services referring to Covid-19 should be adequately substantiated.

The ASAI is issuing the reminder due to the fact that it has received complaints about a number of advertisements for products and services relating to Covid-19 on the grounds that they are misleading. While the number of complaints is not significant, the ASAI considers that it is absolutely necessary to remind all advertisers of the need to advertise responsibly and to avoid claims that undermine public health advice or exploit people’s anxieties.

Advertisers are required to adhere to the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland, which applies to all commercial marketing communications. As stated in the ASAI Code, a marketing communication should not mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.

As a result, the advertiser must be in a position substantiate all claims, expressed or implied that the ad conveys to reasonable consumers.

In the context of substantiation, the importance of protecting the consumer from false or misleading advertising is particularly reflected in Section 4.9 of the Code, as follows:

A marketing communication should not contain claims – whether direct or indirect, expressed or implied – which a consumer would be likely to regard as being objectively true unless the objective truth of the claims can be substantiated.

Further substantiation requirements specific to health claims are contained in Section 11.1 as follows:

Claims about health and beauty products and treatments should be backed by substantiation. Where relevant, this should include the results of robust and reputable trials on human subjects, of sufficient rigour, design and execution as to warrant general acceptance of the results.

Non-adherence to the Code may ultimately result in the ASAI upholding a breach under the Code and which may be published in the general media.

The organisation, which is financed by the advertising industry, also offers free confidential and non-binding copy advice on the compliance of proposed advertising.

Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, says:

“In these unprecedented times, no advert should be irresponsible or exploit consumer fears regarding the current crisis. Advertisers are therefore advised to think twice before making any claims about how to prevent or cure Covid-19 unless the claims can be supported by robust evidence.”

“As the independent self-regulatory body committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland, the ASAI aims to lead the way in ensuring all marketing communications are legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is financed by the advertising industry and committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications that is advertising, promotional marketing and direct marketing. The objective is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

Members of the ASAI are required to abide by the Code and not to publish an advertisement or conduct a promotion which contravenes Code rules. The Code covers commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital (online banners, websites and social platforms), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, and direct marketing.

Further information on advertising self-regulation, the ASAI and the operation

of the system is available at  www.asai.ie

Follow the ASAI on Twitter @THE_ASAI