Responsible Advertising And Marketing Communications
Advertising and all other forms of marketing are key tool for communication between consumers and businesses and are therefore an important factor in building effective market and development of the economy in general.
The responsibility of all advertisers in the contemporary world suggests that they take care the marketing of their products and services to be responsible - towards the competitors on the market, the individual consumers and the society as a whole. This is the most effectively achieved through self-regulation – voluntary implementation by the advertising industry of widely supported ethical rules. The fundamental value of self-regulation lies in its ability to create, enhance and preserve consumer trust and public confidence in the advertised products and in the advertising industry in general.
Nowadays the effective self-regulation provides an additional to the law layer of consumer protection and represents an instrument to recognize the goodwill and reputation of each individual company.
Who Creates The Ethical Standards In Advertising?
The first ever code for ethical advertising was issued in 1937 by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Since then it has been a subject of multiple revisions, but its globally accepted professional standards for responsible advertising and marketing communication still remain today the global reference point for all national ethical codes.
The Bulgarian National Ethical Standards for Advertising and Commercial Communication (“Ethical Code” or “Code”) are issued by the National Council for Self-Regulation (NCSR) in 2009, upon consultations with renowned specialists and interested bodies and organizations.
NCSR is an independent body for self-regulation, established by the three main participants in the Bulgarian advertising industry – the Bulgarian Association of Advertisers (BAA), the Bulgarian Association of Communications Agencies (BACA) and the Association of Bulgarian Radio- and TV Operators (ABRO).
Members of NCSR can be associations, as well as individual companies and physical persons, part of the advertising industry – advertisers and other marketing specialists, advertising agencies, media, distinguished public persons and professionals etc.
The Code is subject to development. For this purpose, the NCSR regularly revises the clauses of the Code to ensure that they embrace the newest developments in technology, marketing practices and the society in today’s dynamic digital world.
As an addition to the General Provisions of the Code, NCSR can apply specific to certain industries ethical standards under the condition that the latter do not contradict the Code.
Whom The Code Applies To?
The Code is valid for all participants in the advertising industry in Bulgaria – advertisers and other marketing specialists, advertising agencies, media and other practitioners related to advertising and to any form of commercial communication in general. The Code sets the standards of ethical conduct in the marketing eco-system.
The responsibility to comply with these standards includes also the so-called influencers, bloggers, vloggers, affiliate networks, data analyzers and ad technology companies, as well as those responsible for preparing algorithms and the usage of artificial intelligence for marketing communication.
Who Applies The Rules?
NCSR issues Rules for Application of the Ethical Code and ensures the voluntary application of the ethical standards and best practices in the industry. For this purpose, NCSR creates working bodies, such as Ethical Committee, Appeal Committee, Working Group for Code Interpretation, Monitoring Committee etc.
NCSR adjudicates upon claims within the scope of the Code against any participant in the advertising industry in Bulgaria, who is involved in advertising and commercial communication in breach of the ethical rules.
The members of the NCSR voluntarily agree to apply the standards of the Code and to ensure they are strictly observed. At the same time, the members of NCSR promote the Code and encourage other industry players to follow its goals and apply its standards.
The decisions of NCSR are obligatory for its members. They agree voluntarily not to implement or accept any actions in breach of the Code and to re-work or discontinue any communication, judged by NCSR to be in breach of the Code.
For those players who have not yet accepted the Code, the decisions of NCSR are not obligatory, but recommended. In case such recommendation is not complied with, NCSR actions include making its decisions public; asking its media members to discontinue the said communication and when appropriate - informing the regulating authorities.
In order to avoid potential breach, NCSR performs upon request a preview (Copy Advice) for conformity of given commercial communication to the Code’s rules prior to its publishing.
Conformity to this Code does not exclude cases when a given media may decline to publish a specific advertising in case it contradicts their own stricter criteria for handling of commercial communication.
Cross Border Complaints
NCSR is a member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) and participates in its system for cross-border complaints. In the case of a cross-border complaint, the principle "country of origin" applies. According to it, an advertisement must comply with the rules of the country where the media is based and in the case of Internet/digital ads and other forms of direct marketing – with the rules of the country where the advertiser is based.
All members of EASA apply the principle of "mutual recognition" i.e. each member of EASA agrees to accept airing of advertisements which comply with the self-regulatory rules in the country of origin of the media, even in cases where these rules are not identical to their own national ones.
Regardless of its limited remit when it comes to cross-border complaints, the NCSR will take measures to respond to such complaints in case it is impossible to address them through the system of EASA and when they are directed towards Bulgarian users (e.g. through a website based in Bulgaria or using Bulgarian language, or indicating contact address in Bulgaria, or when the prices are listed in Bulgarian Leva).
The Code And The Law
The Code is not a legal act and does not address issues, regulated by the applicable laws.
Nevertheless, a fairly large overlap exists in the objectives of the regulation and self-regulation, respectively in the scope of the laws and the Ethical Code.
The Code is always applied within the framework of whatever legislation may be applicable, but it does not substitute any legal regulations related to the advertising and commercial communication in Bulgaria. The Code acts as an “ethical supplement” thereof. Because of this nature, the clauses of the Code are often more detailed than the law itself.
Since it can never be in accordance with good business standards to break the law, the Ethical Code requires compliance to law, however it is not an instrument for monitoring of such compliance or for law enforcement. Rather, the application of the ethical standards is a sign of greater care for the consumers and for the society, since the fact that a communication is legal does not necessarily mean it is also ethically acceptable or appropriate. Therefore all participants in the advertising industry should take care to ensure their marketing communications is in keeping with both the applicable laws and regulations and the relevant provisions of the Ethical Code.
The Code offers easy and accessible way to deal with disputes and usually prevents litigations or penalty acts, however the application of self-regulation does not waive the obligation of the businesses and the citizens to abide by the regulations of the Bulgarian Constitution and the applicable laws.
For avoidance of misunderstanding, when issues within the scope of the Code are also regulated by law, the legal aspects of the case are judged by the respective regulatory authority.
No written or verbal communication from the NCSR or its members will be treated as legal consultation or recommendation.
The Code is applicable to any form and channel of advertising and marketing communication, taken the broadest sense – activities which directly or indirectly stimulate the sales of any kind of goods and services (corporate and institutional promotion included), or promote trademarks and brands, regardless of the used channels and means of communication (see Definitions), including, but non-exhaustive:
Audio-visual communications, TV, radio and other broadcast media, cinema, video etc.;
Print communication in newspapers, magazines, brochures, posters, bulletins, catalogues etc.;
Communication in other media exposed in public, including moving objects;
Commercial communication on packaging, instructions for use and other promotional materials;
Any advertising communication, published against payment or other reciprocal obligation, when the content is controlled by the advertiser/marketing specialist and not by the editor;
Social advertising and advertising connected to charity, sponsorship etc.;
Commercial communication of local and central governments;
Communications connected to promotional activities, including point of sale, degustation, games and lotteries, events;
Communications in electronic media for processing and transfer of information, including, but non-exhaustive:
display ads (moving, non-moving)
paid inclusion/paid search
virals, produced and/or distributed by advertiser/marketing specialists
virals and consumer generated content, generated and distributed by private individuals, including influencers in co-operation or with the support, editorial control or against consideration from advertiser/marketing specialist
marketing communication on corporate internet sites
online in-game advertising
online corporate communications
SMS and MMS
fixed or mobile telephones and other digital communications (e-mail, etc.)
Marketing communication should be taken in the broadest sense (see Definitions), however it does not refer to each and every form of communication. Respectively, the Code does not extend indiscriminately to every type of communication. For instance, the Code does not apply to:
corporate communication, including corporate public affairs messages, press releases and other media statements, nor to information in annual company reports and similar documentation; corporate statements on matters of public policy;
information required by law to be included on product labels;
political communication, aiming to impact electorate during local, national or international elections or referendums;
blogs with no control from advertiser and/or which do not publish communication against payment from advertiser or other consideration of any kind;
virals and consumer generated content, produced and/or distributed by private individuals, without any co-operation, support, editorial control or consideration from advertiser/marketing specialist;
communication with educational purpose or information on issues important to the public, when such communication is not related to the commercial interest of the initiator;
communication whose primary purpose is entertaining or educational and not commercial, like the content of television programmes, films, books, magazines or video games
state authorities communication;
products of art, exhibited in private or publicly;
the products themselves.
The Code and the adjudications of the NCSR’s bodies are public and give information about the boundaries of the volunteer engagement of the advertising industry to deal with the issues through the ethical tools of self-regulation.
The interpretation of the Code by NCSR only applies to the Code, considering that:
the Code is to be interpreted in the spirit as well as to the letter;
it applies to the marketing communication in its entirety, including all words and numbers (spoken and written), visual treatments, music and sound effects, and material originating from other sources;
Because of the different characteristics of the various media, e.g. press, television, radio and other broadcast media, outdoor advertising, films, digital interactive media, social networks, direct mail, fax, electronic messaging, telephone, etc., the marketing communication which is acceptable for one medium may not necessarily be acceptable for another. Communications should therefore be judged by their likely impact on the reasonable consumer, having regard to the characteristics of the targeted group and the medium used.
Marketing communication should be assessed having regard to the knowledge, experience and discriminatory ability of the typical consumer to whom it is directed, as well as the social, cultural and linguistic factors. For example, when judging a communication addressed to children, their natural credulity and inexperience should always be taken into account.
It is accepted that consumers in general are assumed to have a reasonable degree of experience, knowledge and sound judgment, and to be reasonably observant and prudent. Professional or otherwise qualified groups are presumed to have an appropriate level of specialized knowledge and expertise in their field of operation.
The Code is inseparable and all its standards apply in their entirety.
Purpose of the Code
Given the particular importance of the advertising in the economy of the country, the purpose of the Code is to ensure that it is exercised as a public service in such a way as to consider the impact it has on the consumer.
The principles of the Code are the ethical grounds of the self-regulation process. The Code is constructed in such a way as to ensure the discontinuation of activities which are in contradiction with the above mentioned purpose, even if such activities are formally within the framework of the applicable laws.
The Code is intended to achieve the following objectives:
to demonstrate responsibility and good practice in advertising and marketing communication in Bulgaria;
to enhance overall public confidence in marketing communication;
to respect privacy of personal information and consumer preferences;
to guarantee special responsibility with regard to marketing communication and children/teens;
to safeguard the freedom of expression of those engaged in marketing communication (as embodied in article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Constitution of Bulgaria);
to safeguard the principles of fair competition;
to provide practical and flexible solutions to problems in connection to consumer protection;
to minimize the need for detailed governmental and/or inter-governmental legislation or regulations with view of commercial communication.
Structure Of The Code
The national Code is constructed as an integrated system of ethical rules.
Its General Provisions and Definitions apply without exception to all types of advertising and marketing communication and to all communication channels.
In conjunction to the General Provisions, the Code includes more detailed provisions and specific requirements set out in relevant chapters:
Chapter A: Sales Promotion
Chapter B: Sponsorship
Chapter C: Direct Marketing and Digital Marketing Communications
Chapter D: Environmental Claims in Marketing Communications
With the development of the self-regulation policies in the specific branches of the economy, agreed with the industry organizations and also under the initiative of the NCSR, the Code is extended with addendums, containing specific rules and recommendations for commercial communication for specific groups of products or activities. Inseparable parts of the Ethical Code are:
Framework for Food and Drinks
Standards for Spirit Drinks
Rules for Gambling
Rules for Online Behavioral Advertising
Guiding Principles for Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
Recommendation for Influencer Marketing
All specific regulations and definitions specify and supplement the General Provisions and Definitions of the Code and should be read and executed in conjunction, including with regards to their interpretation, scope and application
Updating And Extending The Code
In order to reflect the latest developments in society, the new marketing techniques and communication technologies, NCSR shall regularly review the Code’s provisions. To ensure the stability of its implementation it will be aimed to update the Code not more frequently than every two years.
The following general definitions apply to the entire Code, including its chapters and appendices, enclosures, instructions and recommendations, as well as to the Regulations for its application. The definitions of the terms used herein are included in alphabetical order in a separate ANNEX.
Other more specific terminology relating to a specific chapter or subsection is defined in that chapter or sub-section. They specify and supplement the General Definitions and should be read and interpreted in conjunction with them.
All marketing communication should be prepared with a due sense of responsibility to the consumer and the society.
All marketing communication should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.
Advertisers are responsible to ensure that the commercial communication is legal. No commercial communication should disregard any of the applicable legal provisions; should not contain elements in breach of applicable laws, nor should it encourage anybody to breach or circumvent the law.
All marketing communication should be prepared with a due sense of professional responsibility and should conform to the principles of fair competition.
No communication should be such as to impair public confidence in advertising and marketing.
Self-regulation shall be applied with respect to the fundamental right of all to freedom of expression and freedom of commercial communication.
Marketing communication should not contain statements or audio or visual
treatments which offend standards of decency currently prevailing in the country or which could be defined as vulgar or repulsive according to the generally accepted in the country moral and cultural norms.
3.1. Marketing communication should be so framed as not to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge.
3.2. Relevant factors likely to affect consumers’ decisions should be communicated in such a way and at such a time that consumers can take them into account.
3.3. In case information is communicated under the main body of the content, it has to be sufficiently visible, readable, applying an adequate font or length of communication, allowing the consumer to read it and take it into account.
3.4. No commercial communication should damage - by statement, untrue information, or distorted facts, the good name of and the trust in competitors and/or goods and services offered by them.
3.5. No commercial communication should use or divulge professional or trade secret in contradiction to the conscientious business practice.
4.1. Marketing communication should respect all aspects of human dignity.
4.2. Marketing Communication should not incite or condone, or tolerate any form of offence, discrimination, including that based upon race, national origin, religion, social status or political affiliation, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation, without the above list being exhaustive.
4.3. Marketing communication should observe the principles of gender equity.
4.4. Marketing communication should not play on fear or exploit misfortune or suffering without justifiable reason.
4.5. Marketing communication should not misuse the feeling of pity towards babies, children, sick, aged and disabled people.
4.6. Marketing communication should not depict, condone or incite violent, unlawful or anti-social behavior.
4.7. Marketing communication should not depict, condone or incite threat to the life and health of people, nature, animals or to personal or public property.
4.8. Marketing communication should not contain pornography or depict, condone or incite sexual harassment.
4.9. Marketing communication should not show far too much erotic and should not promote excessive susceptibility to sexuality through depicting encouragement and readiness for sex, revealing the human body in an inappropriate manner, and it should not show the product as a tool for removing sexual barriers. The human body may be revealed with respect to personal rights and human dignity.
4.10. The fact that a specific commercial communication is unacceptable for a particular individual, in principle does not give enough grounds to reject the commercial communication for the given product in general.
4.11. Commercial communication shall use natural, historical, scientific or cultural values in such a manner as not to damage the respect for them.
4.12. Commercial communication should not use the Bulgarian language in an insulting manner.
4.13. When commercial communication uses lawfully a foreign language, the latter will enjoy the same protection as the Bulgarian language.
4.14. State symbols may be used in commercial communication only in adherence to the applicable law and in such a manner as not to denigrate or humiliate their dignity.
4.15. Marketing communications should not play on people’s superstition.
characteristics of the product which are material, i.e. likely to influence the consumer’s choice, such as: composition, quality, quantity, manufacturer, seller, method, location and date of manufacture, resource and manner of extraction or usage, efficiency and performance, commercial or geographical origin, environmental impact, etc.;
the value of the product and the total price to be paid by the consumer;
terms for delivery, provision, exchange, return, repair, maintenance and other commercial conditions for offering of the products;
terms of guarantee;
copyright and industrial property rights such as patents, trademarks, designs and models and trade names;
compliance with standards;
official recognition or approval, awards such as medals, prizes and diplomas;
the extent of benefits for charitable causes, social and cultural events, etc.;
opportunities for fast gains.
5.6. The word ‘new’ shall be used only in a reasonable period of the life cycle of a product that is new or has undergone a considerable change.
Use Of Technical/Scientific Data And Terminology
6.1. When the commercial communication is using technical or scientific data (for example, research findings) or quotes from technical or scientific publications, these should be capable of substantiation and supported by proof.
6.2. Commercial communication should present statistical data in such a way as not to exaggerate the validity of a product claim.
6.3. Technical and scientific data with limited validity term should be clearly identified as such and should not be presented in such a way as to make them look generally valid.
6.4. Commercial communication should not use scientific terminology or vocabulary in such a way as to falsely suggest that a product claim has scientific validity.
6.5. Commercial communication should not misuse technical data, for example, research findings or quotation from technical and scientific publications.
Use Of “Free” And “Guarantee”
7.1. The term "free", e.g. “free gift” or “free offer”, whenever allowed by law, should be used only:
a) where the offer involves no obligation whatsoever; or
b) where the only obligation is to pay the charges for:
i. participation (postal charges announced in advance, a normal telephone call with a fixed in the offer duration, e-mail cost, phone message, etc.);
ii. shipping and handling charges which should not exceed the cost estimated to be incurred by the marketer, or
iii. eventual trip of the consumer, in case he/she is needed personally to receive the offer.
In these cases the consumer’s obligations should be clearly stated and no further cost should be incurred for packaging or handling.
c) in conjunction with the purchase of another product, provided the price of that product has not increased to cover all or part of the cost of the offer.
In case of an offer for a product, which is conditional to a purchase of another product or products, this requirement has to be clearly stated.
7.2. Offers with test period should not be communicated as “free” if the consumer will be asked to pay the cost of an eventual return of the product, except in case such a requirement is clearly stated in the offer.
7.3. In case the acquisition of a free offer requires the consumer to pay any fees or taxes due on the value of the acquisition, such information has to be clearly stated in the commercial communication.
7.4. If it is not true, marketing communication should not state or imply that a “guarantee”, “warranty” or other expression having substantially the same meaning, offers the consumer rights additional to those provided by law when it does not. The terms of any guarantee or warranty, including the name and address of the guarantor, should be easily available to the consumer and limitations on consumer rights or remedies, where permitted by law, should be clear and conspicuous.
7.5. Where free trial, free subscription and similar offers convert to paid transactions at the end of the free period, the terms and conditions of the paid conversion should be clearly, prominently and unambiguously disclosed before the consumer accepts the offer.
Likewise, where a product is to be returned by the consumer at the end of the free period it should be made clear at the outset of who will bear the cost for that. The procedure for returning the product should be as simple as possible.
The disclosure of the information under this article may also be made by reference to communication channels other than the original one.
8.1. Descriptions, claims or illustrations relating to verifiable facts in a marketing communication should be capable of substantiation.
8.2. Such substantiation should be available so that evidence can be produced without delay and upon request to the self-regulatory organizations responsible for the implementation of the Code.
9.1. Marketing communication should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever the form and whatever the medium used.
9.2. When an advertisement appears in a medium containing news or editorial matter, it should be so presented that it is readily recognizable as an advertisement and where appropriate, labelled as such.
9.3. Marketing communication should not misrepresent its true purpose. To this regard, communication promoting the sale of a product should not be disguised as, for example, market research or consumer survey, user generated content, private blogs, private postings in social media or independent reviews.
9.4. The marketing specialist should be subject to identification. This does not apply to communication with sole purpose to draw attention to communication activities to follow (e.g. so-called “teaser advertisements”).
9.5. Marketing communication should, where appropriate, include information on the name and contact address to allow users to get in touch with the marketing specialist without difficulty.
9.6. Influencer marketing should always be distinctive and clearly recognizable by the audience. For this purpose the “#” (hashtag) symbol is used altogether with the brand/advertiser name and mentions of the character of the marketing engagement, in Bulgarian or English language (See Recommendation for Influencer Marketing).
10.1. Commercial communication may use comparisons in case it is needed to illustrate the technical or economic differences, advantages and characteristics of the products.
10.2. Subject to comparison are only objectively substantial, comparable and representative features of the compared goods and services, including their prices.
10.3. The selection criteria have to be clear and the points of comparison should be based on fairly selected, relevant and facts capable of substantiation.
10.4. Marketing communication containing comparisons should not mislead the consumer and should comply with the principles of fair competition. It should be so designed that the comparison shall not be likely to confuse the marketer with his competitor or confuse his trademarks, trade names, other characteristics, goods and services with those of his competitors, or to mislead its addressees.
Marketing communication should not denigrate, even if not mentioned explicitly, any person or group of persons, firm, organisation, industrial or commercial activity, profession or product, or seek to bring them into public contempt or ridicule.
12.1. Marketing communication should not contain or refer to any testimonial, endorsement or supportive documentation unless it is genuine, verifiable and relevant.
12.2. Any testimonials or endorsements used in commercial communication should be archived and stored signed and dated, including contact details such as name and address.
12.3. Unless trusted public source is quoted, testimonials can be used in commercial communication only upon a written consent from the endorsee.
12.4. The marketer can express opinion of theirs for a given product only in case that the commercial communication states clearly that this is an opinion and not a proof.
12.5. No communication from the NCSR or its members, be it verbal or in writing, will be presented as endorsement of any product.
12.6. The commercial communication should not use testimonials or endorsements, which have become obsolete or misleading through passage of time.
12.7. In essence, the endorsements are not proofs and the opinions, expressed in there should be supported, when needed, by proof for truthfulness of the statements.
12.8. The sponsored nature of an endorsement or testimonial should be made clear through an appropriate disclosure if the form and format of the communication would not otherwise be understood to constitute a sponsored message.
Portrayal or Imitation of Persons and References to Personal Property
13.1. Unless prior permission has been obtained, marketing communication should not depict personal property or portray or refer to any persons, whether in a private or a public capacity, except in cases of particular public interest.
13.2. In case the commercial communication portrays scenes with the participation of many people and/or public places, as well as quoting published books, articles or film materials, the prior permission as per. Art. 13.1 may not be needed.
13.3. Marketing communication, without prior permission, should not depict or refer to any person’s property in a way likely to convey the impression of a personal endorsement of the product or organization involved.
Exploitation Of Goodwill
14.1. Marketing communication should not make unjustifiable use of the name, initials, logo and/or trademarks of another firm, company or institution.
14.2. Marketing communication should not in any way take undue advantage of another firm’s, individual’s or institution’s goodwill in its name, brands or other intellectual property, or take advantage of the goodwill earned by other marketing campaigns without prior consent.
Imitation And Exploitation Of Reputation
15.1. Marketing communication should not copy literally or imitate those of another marketer, already used in the market, which can in any way confuse or mislead the consumer, for example through general layout, text, slogan, visual treatment, music or sound effects.
15.2. Marketing communication should not in any way exploit or use industrial samples or copy rights of other marketers in any ways, especially when this could confuse or mislead the consumer, for example, patents, trademarks, designs and useful models.
Health and Safety
16.1. Marketing communication should not, without justification on educational or social grounds, contain any visual portrayal or any description of potentially dangerous practices, or situations which show a disregard for health or safety, as defined by local national standards.
16.2. Instructions for use should include appropriate safety warnings and, where necessary, disclaimers.
16.3. Potential risks for health and safety should be clearly communicated, especially if not easily recognizable.
16.4. Commercial communication should not portray or encourage drunk driving or to give reasons to believe that the effect of alcohol consumption could be concealed.
16.5. Children should be shown to be under adult supervision whenever a product or an activity involves a safety risk.
16.6. Information provided with the product should include proper directions for use and full instructions covering health and safety aspects whenever necessary. Such health and safety warnings should be made clear by the use of pictures, text or a combination of these.
17.1. Special care should be taken in marketing communication directed to or featuring children or young people. Such communications should not undermine the widely accepted norms of decent lifestyles and attitudes and social behaviour.
17.2. Marketing communication:
17.2.1. of products which are illegal to purchase or unsuitable for use by children or teens, should not be advertised in media targeted to them;
17.2.2. directed to children and teens should not be inserted in media, whose editorial content endangers their physical, psychological, moral and/or social wellbeing.
17.3. Marketing communication intended for children, including for games, toys, and educational materials, should not exploit the inexperience or credulity of the children, with particular regard to the following areas:
17.3.1. When demonstrating a product’s performance and use, marketing communication should not:
a. minimise the degree of skill or understate the age level generally required to assemble or operate the products;
b. exaggerate the true size, value, nature, durability and performance of the product;
c. fail to disclose the need for additional purchases, such as accessories, or individual items in a collection or series, required to produce the result shown or described.
17.3. 2. While the use of fantasy is appropriate for younger as well as older children it should not make it difficult for them to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
17.4 Marketing communication directed to children should be clearly distinguishable to them as such.
17.5. Marketing communication should not contain any statement or visual treatment that could have the effect of harming children or teens physically, psychologically, morally and/or socially.
17.6. Children and teens should not be portrayed in unsafe situations or engaging in actions harmful to themselves or others, or be encouraged to engage in potentially hazardous activities or behavior.
Especially, but not exhaustive:
17.6.1. Safety criteria should apply to all commercial communications featuring children;
17.6.2. Children can be portrayed in dangerous situations only in case the purpose of the commercial communication is to promote safety rules;
17.6.3. Medicines, disinfection liquids, cleaning materials, acids, washing powders and any products hazardous for health should not been shown as accessible for children without parental supervision and no children using such materials should be shown in commercial communication;
17.6.4. Commercial communication should not encourage children to position themselves in dangerous for them places and situations, as well as to enter into communication with people who could endanger their safety;
17.6.5. Commercial communication should not feature children on car roads without supervision from adults, except when it is clearly communicated that they are mature enough as to be responsible for their own safety;
17.6.6. Commercial communication should not feature children playing in the street, except in areas, clearly allocated for playgrounds or in other safe areas;
17.6.7. When children are featured as participants in road traffic, the commercial communication should clearly show that the children are acting in accordance to the rules and regulations for traffic safety.
17.7. Marketing communication should not suggest that possession or use of the promoted product will give a child or teen physical, psychological or social advantages over other children or teens, or that not possessing the product will have the opposite effect.
17.8. Marketing communication should not undermine the authority, responsibility, or judgment of parents, having regard to relevant social and cultural values.
17.9. Marketing communication should not include any direct appeal to children and teens to persuade their parents or other adults to buy products for them.
17.10. Prices, including of games, toys and educational products, should not be presented in such a way as to lead children and young people to an unrealistic perception of the cost or value of the product, for example, by minimizing them. Marketing communication should not imply that the product being promoted is immediately within the reach of every family budget.
17.11. Marketing communication which invites children and teens to contact the marketer should encourage them to obtain the permission of a parent or other appropriate adult if any cost is involved, including that for communication,
17.12. No marketing communication referring to gambling, alcohol and tobacco products shall be addressed or directed to children and teens.
17.13. In case of commercial communication suggesting a purchase or usage of a given product by children (for example, internet communication, suggesting purchase through phone), special measures should be taken by the marketer to ensure that children have to obtain permission from their parents prior to confirming the purchase or usage of the product.
18.1. When personal data is collected from consumers, care should be taken to respect and protect their privacy by complying with relevant rules and regulations.
18.2. When personal data is collected from individuals known or reasonably believed to be children, guidance should be provided to parents or legal guardians about how to protect children’s privacy, if reasonably possible.
18.3. Children should be encouraged to obtain a parent’s or other appropriate adult’s permission before providing information via electronic media and reasonable steps should be taken to check that such permission has been given.
18.4. When required by the applicable law, without the consent of the parent, personal data collected from children under the age of 14, should not be used for marketing communication targeting them.
For additional rules on data protection relating specifically to commercial communication targeting children through digital interactive media, see Section C, Article C7.
18.5. Where a consumer has clearly expresses a wish not to receive marketing communication using a specific medium, this wish shall be respected.
18.6. Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that consumers understand and exercise their rights:
a. to opt out of direct marketing lists;
b. to opt out of online behavioural advertisement (ad based on interests);
c. to choose to sign on to general direct preference services;
d. to require that their personal data are not made available to third parties for their marketing purposes;
e. to rectify incorrect data held about them.
Transparency on Cost of Communication
Where the cost to consumers of accessing a message or communicating with the marketer is higher than the standard cost of postage or telecommunications, e.g. “premium rate” for an online message or telephone number, this cost should be made clear to consumers, expressed either as “cost per minute” or as “cost per message”. When this information is provided online, consumers should be clearly informed at the time when they are about to access the message or online service, and be allowed a reasonable period of time to disconnect without incurring the charge.
Unsolicited Products and Undisclosed Costs
20.1. Marketing communication associated with the practice of sending unsolicited products to consumers who are then asked for payment (inertia selling), including statements or suggestions that recipients are required to accept and pay for such products, should not be used.
20.2. Marketing communication which solicits a response constituting an order for which payment will be required (e.g. an entry in a publication) should make this unambiguously clear.
20.3. Marketing communication soliciting orders should not be presented in a form which might be mistaken for an invoice, or otherwise falsely suggest that payment is due.
Marketing communication should not appear to condone or encourage actions which contravene the law, self-regulatory codes or generally accepted standards of environmentally responsible behaviour. It should comply with the principles stated in Section D, Environmental Claims in Marketing Communications.
22.1. The current general rules on responsibility apply to all forms of marketing communication.
22.2. The provisions of the Code are valid for all marketers operators, including marketers, whose products are the subject of advertising, the communication agencies and practitioners, market influencers, bloggers, vloggers, affiliate networks, data analysers and advertising technology companies, as well as those responsible for the algorithms and usage of artificial intelligence for the purpose of commercial communication, as well as publishers and media.
22.3. Whatever the nature of the activity, medium or technology, responsibility is shared by all parties concerned, commensurate with their respective role in the process and within the limits of their respective functions:
22.3.1. Marketers have overall responsibility for the marketing communication of their products, but the responsibility to adhere to the Code refers to all other participants in the marketing eco-system.
22.3.2. Agencies or other practitioners should exercise due care and diligence in the preparation of marketing communication and should operate in such a way as to enable marketers to fulfil their responsibilities.
22.3.3. Publishers, media owners, contractors or other parties, who publish, transmit, deliver or distribute marketing communications, should exercise due care in its acceptance and presentation to the public.
22.3.4. Individuals employed by any firm, company or institution falling into any of the above categories of the current art. 22 and who take part in the planning, creation, publication or transmission of a marketing communication are responsible, to an extent commensurate with their respective positions, for ensuring that the standards of the Code are observed.
22.4. The Code applies to the marketing communication in its entire content and form, including testimonials and statements, as well as audio or visual material originating from other sources. The fact that the content or form of a marketing communication may originate wholly or in part from other sources does not justify non-observance of the Code rules.
Effect of Subsequent Redress for Contravention
Subsequent correction and/or appropriate redress for a breach of the Code, by the party responsible, are desirable but do not excuse the contravention.
Respect for Self-Regulatory Decisions
24.1. No person, responsible for adherence to the Code, should be party to the publication or distribution of an advertisement or other marketing communication which has been found unacceptable by the Ethical Committee of NCSR.
24.2. All parties are encouraged to include in their contracts and other agreements,
pertaining to advertising and other marketing communication, a statement committing the signatories to adhere to the applicable self-regulatory standards and to respect decisions and rulings made by the appropriate self- regulatory body and to support his practice.
CHAPTER A: SALES PROMOTION
The current standards for sales promotions (the Rules), as well as the definitions in this chapter specify and supplement the General provisions and Definitions, inclusive of their interpretation, scope and application and should be read and applied in conjunction with them.
Scope of Chapter A
This chapter applies to marketing devices and techniques which are used to make products more attractive for consumers by providing some promotional item (whether in cash or kind, another product or opportunity for profit). The provisions of the chapter apply irrespective of the form of distribution or of media, including digital (e.g. websites), audio-visual and print media. It also applies to sales and trade incentive promotions, as well as to promotional offers in print media and to those made by audio-visual or other media.
These activities are usually of temporary nature, but the chapter applies also to the long-term and permanent use of promotional techniques.
The chapter covers all forms of sales promotion, including but not exhaustive to:
premium offers of all kinds;
offers for reduced prices and free products/services;
the distribution of stamps, coupons, vouchers and samples;
prize promotions of all kinds, including incentive programmes, including incentive programs;
promotional elements used in connection with other marketing communications, such as direct marketing or sponsorships.
The chapter does not cover the routine distribution of product supplements or accessories of a non-promotional nature.
Terms Specific To Sales Promotion
the term “consumer” refers to any person, company or organisation to whom any sales promotion is directed or who receives a benefit from it, either financially or in kind;
the term “intermediary” refers to any person, company or organisation, other than the promoter, engaged in the implementation of any form of sales promotion;
the term “main product” refers to the goods or services, or combination thereof being promoted;
the term “prize promotion” refers to any skill contest or prize draw used in conjunction with a sales promotion activity;
the term “promoter” refers to any person, company or organisation by whom or on whose behalf a promotion is initiated;
the term “promotional item” refers to any goods or services, or combination thereof offered for a promotional purpose;
Depending on the circumstances and targets of a given sales promotion, any producer, wholesaler, retailer or other person in the marketing process may be a promoter, intermediary and/or consumer for the purposes of a particular sales promotion.
Principles Governing Sales Promotions
All sales promotions should deal fairly and honourably with consumers.
All sales promotions should be so designed and conducted as to meet reasonable consumer expectation associated with the advertising or promotion thereof.
The administration of sales promotions and the fulfilment of any obligation arising from them should be prompt and efficient.
The terms and conduct of all sales promotions should be clear and transparent to all participants.
All sales promotions should be framed in a way which is fair to competitors and other traders in the market.
No promoters, intermediaries or others involved should do anything likely to bring sales promotions into disrepute.
Terms Of The Offer
Sales promotions should be so devised and implemented as to enable the consumer to identify the terms of the offer easily and clearly, including any limitations. Care should be taken not to exaggerate the value of the promotional item or to obscure or conceal the price of the main product.
A sales promotion should not be presented in a way likely to mislead those to whom it is addressed about its value, nature or the terms of participation. Any marketing communication regarding the sales promotion, including activities at the point of sale, should be in strict accordance with the General Provisions of the Code.
Administration Of Promotions
Sales promotions should be administered with adequate resources and supervision including appropriate precautions to ensure that the administration of the offer meets the consumers’ reasonable expectations.
The availability of promotional items should be sufficient to meet anticipated demand consistent with the expressed terms of the offer. If delay is unavoidable, consumers should be advised promptly and necessary steps taken to adjust the promotion of the offer. Promoters should be able to demonstrate that they have made, before the event, a reasonable estimate of the likely demand for promotional items. Where a purchase or a series of purchases are a precondition for obtaining the promotional item, promoters should ensure promotional items are sufficiently available to match the number of purchases being made.
Defective goods or inadequate services should be replaced, or appropriate financial compensation given. Any costs reasonably incurred by consumers as a direct result of any such shortcoming should be reimbursed immediately on request.
Complaints should be efficiently and properly handled.
Safety And Suitability
Care should be taken to ensure that promotional items, provided they are properly used, do not expose consumers, intermediaries, or any other persons or their property to any harm or danger.
Promoters should ensure that their promotional activities are consistent with the principles of social responsibilities contained in the General Provisions, and in particular take reasonable steps to prevent unsuitable or inappropriate materials from reaching children.
Presentation To Consumers
Complex rules should be avoided. Rules should be drawn up in language that consumers can easily understand. The chances of winning prizes should not be overstated.
Sales promotions should be presented in such a way as to ensure that consumers are made aware, before making a purchase, of conditions likely to affect their decision to purchase.
Information should include, where relevant:
clear instructions for participating in the promotional offer, e.g. conditions for obtaining promotional items, including any related cost, or conditions for taking part in prize promotions;
main characteristics of the promotional items offered;
any time limit and terms on taking advantage of the promotional offer;
any restrictions on participation (e.g. geographical or age-related), availability of promotional items, or any other limitations on stocks. In the case of limited availability, consumers should be properly informed of any arrangements for substituting alternative items or refunding money;
the value of any voucher or stamp offered where a monetary alternative is available;
any expenditure involved, including costs of shipping and handling, as well as the terms of payment;
contact data of the promoter.
Promotions claiming to support a charitable cause should not exaggerate the contribution derived from the campaign. Before purchasing the promoted product, consumers should be informed of how much of the price will be set aside for the cause.
Information In Prize Promotions
Where a sales promotion includes a prize promotion, the following information should be given to consumers, or at least made available on request, prior to participation and not conditional on purchasing the main product:
any rules governing eligibility to participate in the prize promotion;
any costs associated with participation, other than for communication at or below standard rate (mail, telephone and other devices);
any restriction on the number of entries;
the number, value and nature of prizes to be awarded and whether a cash alternative may be substituted for a prize;
in the case of a skill contest, the nature of the contest and the criteria for judging the entries;
the selection procedure for the award of prizes;
the closing date of the competition;
when and how the results will be made available;
whether the consumer may be liable to pay tax as a result of winning a prize;
the time period during which prizes may be collected;
where a jury is involved, information about members;
intention to use winner names or winners’ participation in post-event activities and the terms of such participation.
Presentation To Intermediaries
Information For Intermediaries
Sales promotions should be so presented to intermediaries in such a way that they are able to understand the services and commitments required of them. In particular, there should be adequate details as to:
the organisation and scope of the promotion, including the timing and any time limit;
the ways in which the promotion will be presented to the trade and to the public;
the conditions for participation;
the financial implications for intermediaries;
any special administrative task required of intermediaries.
Information On Outer Packing
Where appropriate, relevant information for intermediaries, such as any closing date or time-limit, should appear on the outer packing of the promotional products, so that the intermediary is able to carry out the necessary stock control.
The onus for observing the Code falls on the promoter, who has the ultimate responsibility for all aspects of sales promotions, whatever their kind or content.
Anyone taking part in the planning, creation or execution of any sales promotion has responsibility, as defined in article 22 of the General Provisions
CHAPTER B: SPONSORSHIP
These current rules for sponsorship (“the Rules”), as well as the definitions in this chapter specify and supplement the General Provisions and Definitions, including regarding their interpretation, scope and application and should be read and applied in conjunction with them.
Scope of Chapter B
This chapter applies to all forms of sponsorship relating to corporate image, brands, products, activities or events of any kind. It includes sponsorship by both commercial and non-commercial organisations, including sponsorship elements forming part of other marketing activities such as sales promotion or direct marketing. These rules also apply to any sponsorship element of corporate social responsibility programmes. Sponsor-owned activities should comply, to the extent applicable, with the principles of this chapter.
This chapter does not apply to product placement, or to funding which lacks a commercial or communication purpose, such as donations or patronage, except where there is a sponsorship element.
Terms Specific To Sponsorship
The following definitions relate specifically to this chapter and should be read in conjunction with the General Definitions contained in the General Provisions:
the term “audience” refers to the public, individuals or organisations to which a sponsorship property is directed;
the term “donations and patronage” refers to forms of altruism where money or goods may be given, with only negligible or no benefits or recognition or commercial return for the sponsor;
the term “product placement” refers to the inclusion of a product or brand so that it is featured within the content of a programme, film or publication, including online material, normally in return for payment or other valuable consideration to the programme or film producer, publisher or licensee;
the term “sponsor” refers to any corporation or other legal entity providing financial or other sponsorship support;
the term “sponsor-owned activity” refers to a property which appears to be a sponsorship but where the sponsor and the sponsored party are the same entity; for instance an event created and owned by a company/organisation for which it also has the intention or effect of being perceived as the sponsor of the event;
the term “sponsored party” refers to any individual or other legal entity owning the relevant rights in the sponsorship property and receiving direct or indirect support from a sponsor in relation to the sponsorship property;
the term “sponsorship” refers to any agreement by which a sponsor, for the mutual benefit of the sponsor and sponsored party, provides financing or other support in order to establish an association between the sponsor’s image, brands or products and a sponsorship property, in return for rights to promote this association and/or for the granting of certain agreed direct or indirect benefits;
the term “sponsorship property” refers to an event, activity, organisation, individual, media, etc.;
Principles Governing Sponsorship
Sponsorship should be recognizable as such.
Imitation And Confusion
Sponsors and sponsored parties, as well as other parties involved in a sponsorship, should avoid imitation of the representation of other sponsorships where such imitation might mislead or generate confusion, even if applied to non-competitive products, companies or events.
“Ambushing” Of Sponsored Properties
No party should seek to give the impression that it is a sponsor of any event or of media coverage of an event, whether sponsored or not, if it is not such in fact.
The sponsor and sponsored party should each take care to ensure that any actions taken by them to combat “ambush marketing” are proportionate and that they do not damage the reputation of the sponsored property nor impact unduly on members of the general public.
Respect For The Sponsorship Property And The Sponsor
Sponsors should take particular care to safeguard the inherent artistic, cultural, sporting or other content of the sponsorship property and should avoid any abuse of their position which might damage the identity, dignity, or reputations of the sponsored party or the sponsorship property.
The sponsored party should not obscure, deform or bring into disrepute the image or trademarks of the sponsor, or jeopardise the goodwill or public esteem associated with them.
The Sponsorship Audience
The audience should be clearly informed of the existence of a sponsorship with respect to a particular event, activity, programme or person and the sponsor’s own message should not be likely to cause offence.
Artistic And Historical Objects
Sponsorship should not be conducted in such a way as to endanger artistic or historical objects. Sponsorship which aims to safeguard, restore, or maintain cultural, artistic or historical properties or their diffusion, should respect the public interest related to them.
Social And Environmental Sponsorship
Any sponsorship message fully or partially based on a claim of positive (or reduced negative) social and/or environmental impact should be substantiated in terms of actual benefits to be obtained.
Any environmental claim made with respect to the sponsorship should conform to the principles set out in chapter D, Environmental Claims in Marketing Communications.
Charities And Humanitarian Sponsorship
Sponsorship of charities and other humanitarian causes should be undertaken with sensitivity and care, to ensure that the work of the sponsored party is not adversely affected.
Sponsored media properties should be identified as such.
Particular care should be taken to ensure that there is no confusion between sponsorship of an event or activity and the media sponsorship of that event, especially where different sponsors are involved.
As sponsorship is conceptually based on a contract of mutual benefit, the onus for observing the Code falls jointly on the sponsor and the sponsored party, who share, commensurate with the respective role of the participant in the process,
the ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the sponsorship, whatever its kind or content.
CHAPTER C: DIRECT MARKETING AND DIGITAL MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
These current rules for direct marketing and digital marketing communications (the Rules), as well as the definitions in this chapter specify and supplement the General Provisions and Definitions, including regarding their interpretation, scope and relationship to the law, and should be read and applied in conjunction with them.
Scope of Chapter C
Unless specifically indicated otherwise, this chapter applies to all participants in the direct marketing and the whole digital marketing eco-system. It applies to any marketing communication, whether digital or non-digital, whatever its form, content and medium. It sets standards of ethical conduct to be followed by all parties. It is designed to apply to multiple areas and be technology neutral. It should be applied to any new technology available in the marketplace whenever technologically applicable.
Terms Specific To Direct Marketing And Digital Marketing Communications:
the term “digital marketing communication” refers to marketing communications, using digital interactive media intended primarily to promote products or to influence consumer behavior;
the term “direct marketing” is the communication, by whatever means, of advertising or marketing material carried out by a direct marketer itself or on its behalf, and which is directed to particular individuals using their personal contact information (including mailing address, telephone number, email address, mobile phone number, fax, social media private account, etc.);
the term “operator” refers to any person, firm or company, other than the marketer, that provides a direct marketing, or digital marketing communications service for or on behalf of the marketer;
the term “right of withdrawal” refers to the consumer’s right to resend any goods to the seller, or to cancel the order for services, within a certain time limit and thus annul the sale.
Further definitions are found in Articles 21 and 22 in relation to telemarketing and online behavioral advertising.
Identification And Transparency
Marketing communications should be properly identified as such in accordance with Article 9 of the General Provisions.
Subject descriptions should be accurate and the commercial nature of the communication should be transparent to the consumer.
Where a marketer has offered compensation or other reciprocal obligation for a product endorsement or review, the commercial nature should be transparent. In such cases, the endorsement or review should not state or imply that it generates from or is conferred by an individual consumer or independent body.
Marketers should take appropriate steps to ensure that the commercial nature of the content of a social network site or profile under the control or influence of a marketer is clearly indicated and that the rules and standards of acceptable commercial behavior in these networks are respected.
Any image, sound or text which, by its size, volume or any other visual characteristic, is likely to materially reduce or obscure the legibility and clarity of the offer should be avoided.
Identity Of The Marketer
The identity of the marketer and/or operator and details of where and how they may be contacted should be given in the offer, so as to enable the consumer to communicate directly and effectively with them. This information should be where technically feasible available in a way which the consumer could access.
The terms and conditions of any offer made should be transparent.
All offers involving promotional items should be framed in strict accordance with the rules of Chapter A: Sales Promotion.
Wherever appropriate, the essential points of the offer should be simply and clearly summarized together in one place. Essential points of the offer may be repeated, but should not be scattered throughout the promotional material.
When the presentation of an offer also features products not included in the offer, or where additional products need to be purchased to enable the consumer to use the product on offer, this should be made clear in the original offer.
Consumers should always be informed beforehand of the steps leading to the placing of an order, the concluding of a contract or any other commitment. If consumers are required to provide data for this purpose, they should be given an adequate opportunity to check the accuracy of their input before making any commitment.
Where appropriate, the marketer should respond by accepting or rejecting the consumer’s order.
Software or other technical devices should not be used to conceal or obscure any material factor, e.g. price and other sales conditions, likely to influence consumers’ decisions. Before making any commitment the consumer should be able to easily access the information needed to understand the exact nature of the product, as well as the purchase price, shipping and other costs of purchase.
High Pressure Tactics
High-pressure tactics which might be construed as harassment should not be used. Consumers should not be asked to sign up to an offer where there will be no means provided to confirm the terms and conditions.
Respect For Public Groups And Review Sites
The terms and conditions of particular digital interactive media which may have rules and standards of acceptable commercial behaviour, e.g. news groups, forums, blogs, vlogs or bulletin boards and general server software for web page content editing (wiki sites), should be respected.
Marketing communications posted to such public places are appropriate only when the forum or site has implicitly or explicitly indicated its willingness to receive such communications.
Marketing Communications And Children
Parents and/or guardians should be encouraged to participate in and/or supervise their children’s interactive activities.
Personal data about individuals known to be children should only be disclosed to third parties after obtaining consent from a parent or legal guardian or where disclosure is authorised by law.
Websites devoted to products that are subject to age restrictions such as alcoholic beverages and gambling should undertake measures, such as age screens, to restrict access to such websites by under aged*.
* The term “under aged” refers to those aged below the restricted by the national legislation permit to purchase or consume such restricted products. For the purpose of this Article, if there is no legal restriction, under aged are defined as those below the age of 18.
Marketing communications directed at children in a particular age group should be appropriate and suitable for such children.
Respecting Consumer Wishes
Marketers should respect a consumer’s wish not to receive direct marketing communications by providing a preference system.
Marketers who are communicating with consumers internationally should, where possible, avail themselves of the appropriate preference service in the markets to which they are addressing their communications. They should respect consumers’ wishes not to receive such communications.
Direct marketing sent electronically should include a clear and transparent mechanism enabling the consumer to express the wish not to receive future solicitations, unless where the consumer already has been provided another opportunity to express such wish.
Respecting Consumer Use Of Digital Interactive Media
Due care should be taken to ensure that digital marketing communications do not interfere with the consumer’s normal usage or experience of digital interactive media and/or any application used to enable consumers to open other marketing or advertising messages.
Respect For The Potential Sensitivities Of A Global Audience
Marketers should strive to avoid causing offense by respecting social norms, local culture and tradition in markets where they are directing marketing communications. Given the global reach of electronic networks, and the variety and diversity of possible recipients, marketers should take steps to align their marketing communications with the principles of social responsibility contained in the General Provisions.
Safety And Health
Marketers should ensure that promotional items fulfil the requirements of Article A5, and that the use of marketing communications does not encourage or condone irresponsible practices that could endanger safety and health.
Right Of Withdrawal
Where consumers have a right of withdrawal the marketer should inform them of the existence of this right, how to obtain further information about it, and how to exercise it. (See article 7 of the General Provisions for further provisions on free trials).
When after-sales service is offered, details of the service should be included in the terms of any guarantee, or stated elsewhere in the offer. If the consumer accepts the offer, information should be supplied on how to activate the service and communicate with the service agent.
Prices And Credit Terms
Any information needed by the consumer to understand the cost, interest and terms of any other form of credit should be provided, either in the offer or when the credit is offered.
Whether payment for the offer is on an immediate sale or instalment basis, the price and terms of payment should be clearly stated in the offer, together with the nature of any additional charges (such as postage, handling, taxes, etc.) and, whenever possible, the amount of such charges. In the case of sales by instalment, the credit terms, including the amount of any deposit or payment on account, the number, amount and periodicity of such instalments and the total price compared with the immediate selling price, if any, should be clearly shown in the offer.
Unless the duration of the offer and the price are clearly stated in the offer, prices should be maintained for a reasonable period of time.
Products for which payment is expected should not be delivered without an order. (See also General Provisions, article 20 — Unsolicited products and undisclosed costs.)
Fulfilment Of Orders
The consumer should be informed of any undue delay as soon as it becomes apparent.
Substitution Of Products
If a product becomes unavailable for reasons beyond the control of the marketer or operator, and another product may not be supplied in its place, unless the consumer is informed of that and unless such replacement product has materially the same, or better, characteristics and qualities, and is supplied at the same or a lower price. In such a case, the substitution and the consumer’s right to return the substitute product at the marketer’s expense should be explained to the consumer.
Payment And Debt Collection
Debtors should not be approached in an unreasonable manner and debt collection documents which might be confused with official documents should not be used.
Overall responsibility for all aspects of direct marketing and digital marketing activities, whatever their kind or content, rests as defined in article 22 of the General Provisions and commensurate with the respective role of the participant in the process.
The following provisions apply specifically to direct marketing via telemarketing.
Definition Of Terms Specific To Telemarketing Provisions:
the term “automatic dialling-announcing device” refers to any automatic equipment incorporating the capability of storing or producing telecommunications numbers used in conjunction with other equipment to convey a pre-recorded or synthesized voice message to a telecommunications number.
the term “predictive dialling device” refers to “any software, system, or device that automatically initiates outgoing telecommunications from a pre-determined list of telecommunications numbers”;
the term “telemarketer” refers to any person, firm or company that provides or performs a telemarketing service for and on behalf of the marketer;
the term “telemarketing” includes all marketing communications performed/made by voice via a landline, mobile, voice over IP or any other device;
20.1.1. When calling a consumer, telemarketers should:
- promptly state the name of the marketer they represent and their own name;
- unambiguously state in the beginning the purpose of the call;
- politely terminate the call when it becomes apparent that the recipient is not competent to complete the call, or does not wish to take the call, or is a child (unless the telemarketer receives permission from an appropriate adult to proceed with the call).
20.1.2. When a telemarketer calls a consumer who has a device with a number display facility, the consumer should be able to identify the number of the company that is calling.
20.1.3. Before closing the call, the telemarketer should ensure that the consumer is informed and aware of the nature of any agreement reached, and of any steps that will be taken following the call. Where a sale agreement is claimed to have been concluded, the consumer should be fully aware of the essential points of the contract. These include, as a minimum:
a. the main characteristics of the product;
b. where products are to be supplied permanently or for an on-going period, the minimum duration of the contract;
c. the price of the product, including any additional costs (e.g. delivery and/or handling charges and any tax which the consumer may have to pay);
d. the arrangements for payment, delivery or performance;
e. any right of withdrawal to which the consumer is entitled.
Where the call leads not to a sale, but to further contact by a marketer, the telemarketer should inform the consumer that there will be a subsequent contact. If data supplied by the consumer are to be used for any non-obvious purpose, i.e. a purpose which has not already been disclosed, the telemarketer should explain this purpose to the consumer in accordance with the General Provisions on data protection.
C20.2. Reasonable Hours
Unless the recipient has expressly requested otherwise, outbound calls should be made only during hours which are generally regarded as reasonable for the recipient.
C20.3. Right to written confirmation
Where a call results in an order, the consumer has the right to receive confirmation, in writing or other durable format, of the detailed terms of the contract, in due time and at the latest at the time of delivery of the goods or at the commencement of the delivery of the services. Confirmation should include all the information specified in article C12 (Right of withdrawal) and article C2 (Identity of the marketer) and, where appropriate, any other information specified in this chapter.
C20.4. Monitoring of conversations
Monitoring, including recording, of conversations made for telemarketing purposes should be conducted only with appropriate safeguards, in order to verify the content of the call, to confirm a commercial transaction, for training purposes and for quality control and for other purposes according to the applicable law.
Telemarketers should be made aware when monitoring is taking place and consumers should be informed, as early in the call as is practicable, of the possibility of monitoring. No recorded conversation should be presented to a public audience without the prior consent of both participants.
C20.5. Use of predictive dialling services and automatic dialling announcing services
Where a predictive dialling device is used, if no telemarketer is immediately available to take the call generated by the dialler, the equipment should abandon the call and release the line in not more than one second.
Other automatic dialling-announcing devices may be used to contact a consumer only where the call is initially introduced by a telemarketer, or where the consumer has expressly agreed to receive such calls without telemarketer intervention.
Neither a predictive dialling device nor any other automatic dialling-announcing devices may be used unless the equipment immediately disconnects when the consumer hangs up.
Dialling equipment should release each time before connecting to another number.
Provisions For Interest Based / Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA)
The following applies to advertising focusing on web viewing behavior over time and across multiple web domains or applications owned and operated by different unaffiliated entities in order to create interest segments (a collection of users that share one or more attributes based on prior and current online browsing activity) or to associate such viewing behavior against interest segments for the purposes of delivering advertisements to and by that web user’s interests and preferences.
These provisions apply to all individuals and entities engaged in such activities online.
(See also “Rules for Online-Behavioral Advertising”)
Definition of terms specific to OBA provisions:
the term “consent” means an individual’s freely given, specific and informed indication in response to a clear and conspicuous notice regarding the collection and use of data for online behavioural advertising purposes.
the term “online behavioural advertising” (OBA)”, also “interest-based advertising”, refers to the practice of collecting information over time on users’ online actions on a particular device across different unaffiliated websites or applications in order to create interest segments or to allocate such viewing behaviour against interest segments for the purposes of delivering advertisements to and by that web user’s interests and preferences.
It pertains to advertising operations on desktop, mobile, video or TV, social media settings, or IoT settings, and include tracking and targeting across all devices used by the consumer.
OBA does not include quantitative ad delivery or quantitative ad reporting, or contextual advertising (e.g. advertising based on the content of the web page being visited, current visit to a web page, or a search query).
in the context of OBA, the term “third party” refers to an entity that engages in OBA on a non-affiliated website, service, or app (including, but not limited to advertisers, ad exchanges, ad networks, and technology service providers). This is in contrast to a “website operator” or “first party” who is the owner, controller or operator of the website, including affiliated sites, service, or applications with which the web user interacts online.
Application Of Notice And Choice Provisions
Any party participating in OBA should adhere to principles of notice and user control as set out below.
Transparency of data collection and use, and the ability for users and consumers to choose whether to share their data for OBA purposes is vital. The following guidance provides further clarification for how these principles apply to OBA.
Third parties and website operators should give clear and conspicuous notice on their websites describing their OBA data collection and use practices. Such notice should include clear descriptions of the type of data and purpose for which it is being collected. As far as such information represents personal data, the same should be collected so as a notice should be provided through deployment of one or multiple mechanisms for clearly disclosing and informing Internet users about data collection and use practices.**
**Examples of how third parties, and where applicable website operators can provide notice of the collection of data for OBA purposes include mechanisms like: an icon that links to a disclosure either in or around the advertisement delivered or somewhere else on the web page where data is collected; definition in the cookies policy; or through a web link to an industry-developed website(s) where third parties are individually listed.
C21.2. User Control
Third parties should make available a mechanism for web users to exercise their choice with respect to the collection and use of data for OBA purposes.
C22.3. Precise Location
Precise location data is data that describes the precise location of a device derived through any technology that is capable of determining with reasonable specificity the actual physical location of an individual or device, such as GPS-level latitude/longitude coordinates or location-based frequency signal triangulation.
Precise location data does not include general location data, such as postal code, city or neighborhood, whether that data is derived from an Internet Protocol (IP) address or other sources.
Privacy disclosures should make clear the ways in which sites, apps, and services access, use, and share precise geolocation data. Companies should also disclose all mechanisms through which location information is collected (e.g., Wi-Fi, Basic Service Set Identifier (BSSID)) and ensure that consumer’s choice related to collection of location data is never circumvented (by collecting Wi-Fi status, for example, when other location services are turned off).
After serving and delivering an OBA ad based on precise location data in real time, such data should be retained only for the purposes and periods specified at the time of collection.
Segments specifically designed to target children for OBA purposes should not be created without appropriate parental consent.
C21.5. Sensitive Data Segmentation
In general, no segmentation based on sensitive data should be created or used for the purposes of OBA. Those seeking to create or use such OBA segments relying on the use of sensitive data should obtain a web users’ consent, prior to engaging in OBA using that information.
CHAPTER D: ENVIRONMENTAL CLAIMS IN MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
These current rules for environmental claims in marketing communication (“the Rules”), as well as the definitions in this chapter specify and supplement the General Provisions and Definitions, including regarding their interpretation, scope and application and should be read and applied in conjunction with them.
Scope of Chapter D
There are many different specific environmental claims whose use and importance may vary. These principles however apply in general to all environmental claims.
The rules in this chapter apply to all marketing communications containing environmental claims, i.e. any claim in which explicit or implicit reference is made to environmental or ecological aspects relating to the production, packaging, distribution, use/consumption or disposal of products.
Environmental claims can be made in any medium, including labelling, package inserts, promotional and point-of-sales materials, product literature as well as digital interactive media. The chapter draws from national and international guidance, including, but not limited to, certain provisions of the International Standard ISO 14021 on “Self-declared environmental claims” relevant to the marketing communication context, rather than technical prescriptions.
Terms Specific To Environmental Claims
The following definitions relate specifically to this chapter. They supplement the General Definitions and should be read in conjunction with these:
the term “environmental aspect” means an element of an organisation’s activities or products that can interact with the environment;
the term “environmental claim” means any statement, symbol or graphic that indicates an environmental aspect of a product, a component or packaging.
the term “environmental impact” means any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organisation’s activities or products;
the term “life cycle” means consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to final disposal/destruction;
the term “product” refers to any goods and services and normally includes the wrapping/container in which the goods are delivered; however, in the environmental context it is often appropriate to refer separately to the packaging, which then means any material that is used to protect or contain a product during transportation, storage, marketing or use.
the term “qualification” means an explanatory statement that accurately and truthfully describes the limits of the claim;
the term “waste” refers to anything for which the generator or holder has no further use and which is discarded or released into the environment.
Honest And Truthful Presentation
Marketing communication should be so framed as not to abuse consumers’ concern for the environment, or exploit their possible lack of environmental knowledge.
Marketing communication should not contain any statement or visual treatment likely to mislead consumers in any way about the environmental aspects or advantages of products, or about actions being taken by the marketer in favour of the environment. Overstatement of environmental attributes, such as highlighting a marginal improvement as a major gain, or use of statistics in a misleading way (“we have doubled the recycled content of our product” when there was only a small percentage to begin with) are examples. Marketing communications that refer to specific products or activities should not imply, without appropriate substantiation, that they extend to the whole performance of a company, group or industry.
Any environmental claim should be relevant to the particular product being promoted and relate only to aspects that already exist or are likely to be realized during the product’s life. It should be clear to what the claim relates, e.g. the product, a specific ingredient of the product, or its packaging or a specific ingredient of the packaging. A pre-existing but previously undisclosed aspect should not be presented as new. Environmental claims should be up to date and should, where appropriate, be reassessed with regard to relevant developments.
Vague or non-specific claims of environmental benefit, which may convey a range of meanings to consumers, should be made only if they are valid, without qualification, in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances. If this is not the case, general environmental claims should either be qualified or avoided. In particular, claims such as “environmentally friendly”, “ecologically safe”, “green”, “sustainable”, “carbon friendly” or any other claim implying that a product or an activity has no impact, or only has a positive impact on the environment, should not be used without qualification unless a very high standard of proof is available.
As long as there are no definitive, generally accepted methods for measuring sustainability or confirming its accomplishment, no claim should be made that this has been achieved.
Qualifications should be clear, prominent and readily understandable; the qualification should appear in close proximity to the claim being qualified, to ensure that they are read together. There may be circumstances where it is appropriate to use a qualifier that refers a consumer to a website where accurate additional information may be obtained. This technique is particularly suitable for communicating about after-use disposal. For example, it is not possible to provide a complete list of areas where a product may be accepted for recycling on a product package. A claim such as “Recyclable in many communities, visit [URL] to check on facilities near you,” provides a means of advising consumers where to locate information on communities where a particular material or product is accepted for recycling.
Marketing communications should use technical demonstrations or scientific findings about environmental impact only when they are backed by reliable evidence. Environmental jargon or scientific terminology is acceptable provided it is relevant and used in a way that can be readily understood by those to whom the message is directed. An environmental claim relating to health, safety or any other benefit should be made only where it is supported by reliable scientific evidence.
Superiority And Comparative Claims
Any comparative claim should be specific and the basis for the comparison should be clear. Environmental superiority over competitors should be claimed only when a significant advantage can be demonstrated. Products being compared should meet the same needs and be intended for the same purpose. Comparative claims, whether the comparison is with the marketer’s own previous process or product, or with those of a competitor, should be worded in such a way as to make it clear whether the advantage being claimed is absolute or relative. Improvements related to a product and its packaging should be presented separately, and should not be combined, in keeping with the principle that claims should be specific and clearly relate to the product, an ingredient of the product, or the packaging or ingredient of the packaging.
Product Life-Cycle, Components And Elements
Environmental claims should not be presented in such a way as to imply that they relate to more stages of a product’s life-cycle, or to more of its properties, than is justified by the evidence. It should always be clear to which stage or which property a claim refers. A life-cycle benefits claim should be substantiated by a life cycle analysis. When a claim refers to the reduction of components or elements having an environmental impact, it should be clear what has been reduced.
Such claims are justified only if they relate to alternative processes, components or elements which result in a significant environmental improvement. Environmental claims should not be based on the absence of a component, ingredient, feature or impact that has never been associated with the product category concerned unless qualified to indicate that the product or category has never been associated with the particular component, ingredient, feature or impact.
Conversely, generic features or ingredients, which are common to all or most products in the category concerned, should not be presented as if they were a unique or remarkable characteristic of the product being promoted.
Claims that a product does not contain a particular ingredient or component should be used only when the level of the specified substance does not exceed that of an acknowledged trace contaminant or background level. Claims that a product, package or component is “free” of a chemical or substance often are intended as an express or implied health claim in addition to an environmental claim. The substantiation necessary to support an express or implied health or safety claim may be different and the advertiser should be sure to have reliable scientific evidence in support in accordance with the General Provisions of the Code.
Signs And Symbols
Environmental signs or symbols should be used in marketing communication only when the source of those signs or symbols is clearly indicated and there is no likelihood of confusion over their meaning. Such signs and symbols should not be used in such a way as falsely to suggest official approval or third party certification.
Environmental claims referring to waste handling are acceptable provided that the recommended method of separation, collection, processing or disposal is generally accepted or conveniently available to a reasonable proportion of consumers in the area concerned, or such other standard as may be defined by applicable local law. If not, the extent of availability should be accurately described.
For this chapter, the rules on responsibility are laid down in the General Provisions, Article 22.
Last update: June 25, 2020
ANNEX: GENERAL DEFINITIONS
The following general definitions apply throughout the Code, including its chapters, appendixes, annexes, recommendations and guidance, as well as the Rules for Code’s implementation.
For the purposes of this Code, some of the terms define as (in alphabetical order):
“actions in public interest” means actions in defense of health, safety and security of the population; protection of the cultural heritage; support for prevention and disclosure of crimes and abuse of power or prevention of the society from the threat to be seriously mislead;
“advertiser” means every physical person or legal entity, which directly or indirectly promotes goods, services, rights, obligations, firms, trademarks, symbols etc. on its own or through an agent or intermediate;
“advertising” or “advertisement” means any form of marketing communication in connection to trade, profession or occupation, carried on any media/communication channel, usually in return for payment or other valuable consideration, which aims to stimulate the sale of goods or service, including of real estate, rights and obligations;
“advertising through games and lotteries” means commercial communication, including invitation to the consumer to take part in a game or competition, based on accidental gain, or information that the consumer has already been selected as winner in such a game or competition and has a right of award or gain;
“advertising agency” means every physical person or legal entity, which offers service in the field of the various form of commercial communication including planning, design and production, media planning and buying, researches, consulting etc.;
“advertising message/communication” means any form of presenting a product, including its packaging;
“alcohol/alcoholic drinks” means beer, wine and spirit drink (as per § 1, p. 17 of the Health Act, “Spirit Drinks” are alcoholic drinks above 15% volume content of alcohol);
“association” means industry organization defending the interests of its members;
“charity advertising” means communication aiming at collection of funds for charity, including cash or other consideration, promoting the interests of the charity or philanthropic organization;
“child” means every individual below 18 years of age;
“claim” means a formal document, complaint, signal, plea or request, concerning any form of commercial communication. The claim can contain prima facie proof of breach of the ethical Code or to raise concerns about possible breach requiring further investigation;
“commercial/marketing communication” includes advertising as well as other techniques to convey information, such as promotions, sponsorships, direct marketing and digital commercial communication, and should be interpreted broadly to mean any form of communication produced directly by or on behalf of marketers intended primarily to promote products or to influence consumer behaviour, regardless of the type of the communication channels/media used;
“communication channel”/”media” means each place or tool, through which individuals are directing advertising message or any form of commercial communication to the consumer;
“comparative advertising” means commercial communications, through which directly or indirectly identifies a competitor or its product;
“complaint” means a formal document, claim, plea or request, concerning any form of commercial communication;
“consideration“ includes formal contractual agreements defining cash payment or other form of monetary compensation; mere provision of free or discounted products/services and all other kinds of reciprocal compensation made by the marketer;
“consumer” means any person who can reasonably be expected to be affected by marketing communications, whether as an individual or as a trade customer or user;
“corporate/company communication” means message or statement of a company to media, annual reports, statements on public policy etc.;
“corporate internet page” is a site owned by a marketer fully or in its majority;
“digital interactive media” refers to the full range of media, platforms and tracking technologies, including mobile, video, TV, social media, Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, and cross device tracking, and associated algorithms;
“direct marketing” comprises all communication activities with the intention of offering goods or services or transmitting commercial messages, presented in any medium and aimed at informing and soliciting a response from the addressee, as well as any service directly related thereto;
“distant sale” means any commercial activity, implemented through communication from a distance, without the physical presence of the both sides of the deal;
“editorial content” means news, political, social or financial content, whose main purpose is to inform or comment, but not to advertise/promote;
“editorial control” is any kind of interaction or control by the advertiser such as suggestion or proposal for the content, tone, structure and/or direction of the message generated by individuals or virtual persons, inclusive of pre-suggested message script, scenario or speech, additional requests for validation of the content before its publication, request for a positive review, request for a specific number of posts on a certain social media channel mentioning the service/product or requests to show the product in a social media post, etc.;
“electronic media” refers to any media providing electronic messages or interactive communications, such as the internet, online services and electronic and communication networks including the telephone;
“good commercial practice” refers to the standards, defining the market behaviour, resulting from the applicable laws and the usual trade relationships and which are not in breach of the good social norms;
“hidden advertising” means advertising message, pretending to be other form of non-commercial communication (an article, editorial news etc.);
“imitation” means unauthorized use of material from commercial communication of others;
“indecent advertising” means every commercial communication, which attracts the attention and the interest of the consumers in a publicly unacceptable, offensive or scandalous manner;
“influencer marketing” is any type of communication by an individual or virtual person, who shapes audience attitudes through content in blogs, posts, images, videos etc. in any kind of social media, which communication is under editorial control and/or is published in exchange for payment or consideration of any kind, provided by the marketer.
“interactive services” means each communication, directed to the consumer and allowing the receiving party to send back a message, including an action (response, order etc.) and which may happen regardless from the limitations of time and space;
“market research” which includes all forms of market, opinion and social research and data analytics, is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals and organisations through the use of statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social, behavioural and data sciences to generate insights and support decision-making by the providers of goods and services, governments, non-profit organisations and the general public;
“marketer” refers to persons or companies, including advertisers, sales promoters and direct marketers, who or on whose behalf marketing communications are published or disseminated for the purpose of promoting their products or influencing consumer behaviour;
“marketing/commercial communication” includes advertising as well as other information techniques, such as promotions, sponsorships, direct marketing and digital marketing communications, advertisement at points of sale, etc., and should be interpreted broadly to mean any communications produced directly by or on behalf of marketers intended primarily to promote products or to influence consumer behaviour, regardless of the technology and the type of media used;
“media”/”communication channel” means each place or tool, through which individuals are directing advertising message or any other form of commercial communication to the consumer;
“misleading advertising” means any commercial communication, which in any way, including the way of its presentation, leads or may lead the consumers it is reaching or is addressed to, into delusion and thus may influence their economic behaviour or to damage the interests of a competitor;
“mobile” refers to mobile phones and wireless devices (such as, but not limited to, portable game consoles, tablets, wrist watches, etc.) which a user can call from and interact with, which require a subscriber identity module card or personal identifier for the user;
“monitoring” means system for surveillance of the conformity of the commercial communications with the Code;
“native advertisement” is a paid advertisement that matches the form, function, style and functionality of the platform where it appears;
“offer”/”proposal” means any presentation or solicitation for the sale or purchase of products;
“personal data” means any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual, directly or indirectly, including if it reveals his/her physical, psychological, mental, family, economic, cultural or social identity, but not only;
“product” refers to anything that constitutes the subject of an advertisement; this usually means physical products (goods) or services, including real estate, rights and obligations, but is not restrictive: where appropriate the Code may be applied more widely, e.g. to concepts;
“professional or trade secret” means facts, information, decisions and data, connected to trade activity and generally every information the revealing of which may threaten the trade interests or the prestige of a third person; the protection of which is in the interest of the holders of the rights, for which they have taken relevant measures. The professional secret does not constitute a trade secret “by virtue of office”, as defined by the Act for protection of the classified information;
”proposal”/“offer” means any presentation or solicitation for the sale or purchase of products;
“social advertising” means advertising message, aiming to form public opinion;
“sponsorship” refers to any commercial agreement by which a sponsor, for the mutual benefit of the sponsor and sponsored party, contractually provides financing or other support in order to establish an association between the sponsor's image, brands or products and a sponsorship property, in return for rights to promote this association and/or for the granting of certain agreed direct or indirect benefits;
“subconscious level of consideration” means emotional notion for advertising, caused by the impact on the human memory, which the person is not aware of;
“teens” means those individuals aged between 13 to 17 years of age;
“testimonial” means communication for a product, made personally by an individual, based on personal experience;
“unfair competition” means each action or lack of such with regards to business which is contrary to good commercial practice and harms or is likely to harm the interests of competitors;
Last update: June 25, 2020
Two type of complaints may be submitted to the National Council for Self-regulation in case of a breach of:
1. Ethical Code - related to the content (misleading, offensive, inappropriate for children etc.) of an advertisement or any other form of commercial communiaction or
2. Rules for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) - related to targeted at selected internet users behavioural advertising. To learn about OBA and what you can do prior to submitting an OBA complaint.
А Complaint is a formal document, claim, plea or request, concerning any form of commercial communication which gives proof of breach of the ethical rules or indicates a possible breach that requires further investigation.