What are the benefits of self-regulation?

For Consumers:  By avoiding the complexities and delays of a judicial process, self-regulation offers consumers a quick, uncomplicated, easily-accessible and (because it is funded by the advertising industry) often cost-free means of having their complaints handled. Self-regulation is also flexible enough to adapt to changing societal views as well as advertising media / techniques. It can apply immediate sanctions by publishing the jury decisions and by pushing for media refusal or withdrawal of advertisements.

For Advertising Industry: Having effective self-regulation in place means that the advertising industry pro-actively makes sure its advertising messages are honest, decent, truthful and legal. This will allow the advertising industry to build up a strong trust relationship with the consumer, thus promoting further consumption of the products and services advertised.

Self-regulation is also an alternative to detailed legislation, but not to all legislation. It is now widely accepted that self-regulation works best within a legislative framework. The two complement each other, like the frame and strings of a tennis racquet, to produce a result which neither could achieve on its own. The law lays down broad principles, e.g. that advertising should not be misleading, while self-regulatory codes, because of their greater flexibility and the fact that they are interpreted in spirit as well as the letter, can deal quickly and efficiently with the detail of individual advertisements. Framework legislation therefore creates a legal backstop which self-regulation will need to invoke when dealing with fraudulent and/or illegal practices (like for example pornography) as well as rogue traders – those operators who repeatedly refuse to abide by any laws.

The value of advertising self-regulatory standards

It is a quick system: complaints are usually handled within 3-60 working days, which is much faster than going through court.

It is flexible: the rules used by the jury and the sensitivities taken into account in the decision-making process adapt to technological and societal chan ge.

It is independent: as the system is funded by the advertising industry, it is under constant scrutiny by civil society, which ensures that decisions made regarding complaints are impartial.

It is free and accessible: it is free to file a complaint, and it is possible to complain through a simple online form or through other traditional means.

It is easy to complain: if a complaint appears justified, the advertiser must prove its claims are true rather than the complainant proving they are false. 

Sanctions imposed by self-regulatory bodies are quick and effective: they will require that a campaign that does not comply with the code be amended or stopped.

 It provides for a case by case approach when handling complaints, thereby guaranteeing that cultural, societal and economical contexts are taken into account.

The juries that adjudicate on the advertising complaints include, by and large, lay experts from civil society, who are independent from the advertising industry. Their presence is an additional guarantee for the independence of the jury and the impartiality of its decisions.

Decisions made by advertising complaint juries are easier to unders and than court decisions.

It provides an additional layer of consumer protection that complements the legal framework and often goes beyond the minimum prescribed by law.

It is a tried and trusted system: some advertising self-regulatory systems have been effectively handling advertising complaints for more than half a century.