Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Misleading advertising

Misleading advertising

Advertising is a vital way for companies to bring in new business. However, consumers need to watch out for unscrupulous advertisers trying to sell goods and services that aren't what they're advertised to be. Some advertisers set out to mislead. Their adverts deceive or are likely to deceive their audience. These kinds of adverts are against the law.

Advertising in the UK

Advertising in the UK is mainly controlled through codes of practice. The code that must be applied will depend on the industry or medium of advertisement. The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 backs up the codes of practice and covers various types of advertising and media.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulates the advertising industry. Complaints about most adverts are dealt with by the ASA. It is up to advertisers to prove any claims they make. If they can't do so, the advertisement can be withdrawn or amended.

Who to complain to

You should complain to the ASA. The ASA covers most complaints about advertising. Complaints can be made online, by post or (for some advertisements) by phone.

Local trading standards officers also receive complaints. They can seek court orders to stop misleading advertising that is harming consumers. These officers also enforce the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

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