Regulations for application of the national ethical standarts for advertising and commercial communication

The Regulations for Application of the National Ethical Standarts for Advertising and Commercial Communication (hereinafter referred to as “Ethical Code”) regulates the organs, mechanisms, terms and conditions of the application of the Ethical Code, adopted by the National Council for Self-regulation (NCSR).


“Self-regulation” means voluntary observance of set of ethical principles of regulation of the conduct of the economic operators in a given branch, field, profession.

“Claim” – for the purposes of the Code 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.

“Copy Advice Request” is a request for a review by the NCSR, before publishing of particular commercial communication, related to the compliance of the given commercial communication to the Ethical Code.

“Claimant” is the person, who has lodged a claim, Copy Advice request or Inquiry for Interpretation of the Code

The term “Criteria for Harmful to Children Content” means the Criteria for evaluation of a content which is unfavorable and creates a risk to affect the physical, mental, moral and social development of the children, adopted by the Council of Electronic Media (CEM) and the State Agency for Protection of Children (SAPC) on the grounds of the Art. 32 (5) of the Radio and Television Act.

“Inquiry about interpretation” means a request for clarification, in spirit and to the point, of clauses of the Ethical Code.

“Parties to a Claim /Procedure” are the claimant and the respondent.

“Professional or trade secret” stands for facts, information, resolutions and data related to business activity and in general any information the disclosure of which would threaten the trade interest or the reputation of any third person; protecting of such a secret is in the interest of the entitled, for which they have taken the necessary measures. The “trade secret” in this document has no meaning of “professonal secret”, as defined by the Protection of Classified Information Act.

“Respondent” is the person, against whom a claim has been lodged.

“Sanction” means an imposition of compliance with the regulations of the self-regulation organisation

The term “Serious public interest” for the needs of the Regulations includes any substantial threat to: the health, safety and security of the population; the public moral norms and values; the cultural and historical heritage or protection of the consumers/society against the risk of being seriously misled.

1. National Council for Self-regulation

1.1. Goal

The National Council for Self-regulation (NCSR) is a non-profit association in public benefit, financed by the advertising industry.

Its main purpose is to unite the advertising industry behind the definition and the observance of the rules for professional conduct in the field of advertising and commercial communication – by adopting, ensuring coverage and securing the application of the Ethical Code in favour to the fair competition and first and foremost – protection of the consumer and the society.

1.2. Membership

1.2.1. Members of the NCSR can be representatives of the advertising industry: advertisers, advertising agencies, media, advertising experts and any other individuals and legal entities or trade associations and any other organisations and partnerships, which adopt the goals and the statute of the NCSR and pay membership fees, as defined by the Board.

1.2.2. When a partnership or an association is a member of the NCSR, they:
o introduce to all their members the Ethical Code and the Regulations for its application;

o require from every member of their to sign a written declaration about voluntary acceptance of the Ethical Code and the Regulations for its application;

o require from their members to observe the resolutions of the EC, which are binding on them.

1.3. Operating bodies of the NCSR

1.3.1.The activity of the NCSR is implemented by appointed by its Managing Board bodies:
а. Secretariat;
b. Expert Group for interpretation of the Ethical Code;
c. EC;
d. AC;
e. Committee for Post-monitoring;

1.3.2. The Board can establish, transform or adjourn operating bodies or to assign their functions to other bodies of NCSR in order to achieve the goals of the organisation and to ensure its effective work.

1.3.3. The Board may discharge a member of a NCSR body in the event of breach of the present Regulations, frequent absence from the working sessions of the respective body and/or undermining of the NCSR authority.

“Frequent absence” means 30 % non-attendance in a period of 6 months.

1.3.4. The NCSR mailing address is the address of its office. In the event of change of the address, the Secretariat informs all members and announces the change to the public.

2. Independence, Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality

2.1. The members of all committees, expert groups and other operating bodies of the NCSR fulfill their obligations on their own conscience and convictions and do not represent the interests of NCSR members, that have adopted the Ethical Code or the trade organisations that have proposed them for members.

2.2. A member of a particular operating body has conflict of interest, when:

a. during the last 3 years has been a proxy of any of the parties to a Claim;
b. during the last 3 years has been in employment or other contractual relationship with any of the parties to a Claim;
c. on account of other circumstances he/she may be considered prejudiced or directly or indirectly interested in the outcome of the record.

2.3. In the event of conflict of interest every member of the NCSR’s operating body has the moral obligation to recuse.

2.4. In the event of conflict of interest the parties to the Claim / request are entitled to require recusal of a member of the operating body.

2.5. Any information, whether written or verbal, obtained in the course of work of the operating bodies is considered a professional secret and the members of these operating bodies and the drawn by them persons undertake to keep it in full confidentiality.

3. Ethical Rules (“Code”)

3.1. The Ethical Standarts for Advertising and Commercial communication in the Republic of Bulgaria, adopted by the NCSR, hereinafter referred to as “Code” are the general frame of self-regulation in advertising and commercial communication in Bulgaria.

3.2. The Code can be periodically amended and expanded.

3.2.1. Request for amendment of the Code can be made by any member of the NCSR, individual or legal entity, with written request sent to the NCSR.

3.2.2. The amendments are subject to approval by the General Assembly of the NCSR.

3.2.3. For the purposes of ensuring stability of the self-regulation system, the Code can be amended not more than every two years, save in cases of especially significant public importance.

3.2.4. On important subjects, the EC issues recommendations for the implementation of specific provisions of the Ethical Code

3.2.5. When assessing potentially harmful for children content of commercial communication, the bodies of NCSR will consider the Criteria for harmful for children content, approved by the Council for Electronic Media and the State Agency for Child Protection, on the grounds of Art. 32, (5) of the Radio and TV Act.

3.2.6.  (1) When handling complaints routed through European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) the principle “country of origin applies – the advertising and other commercial communicaion should be compliant to the selfregulatory rules of the country, where the publishing media is based, in the case of interne/digital advertising and other forms of direct marketing – the rules of the country where the advertiser is seated.

(2) Should it become impossible to answer a complaint through the EASA system,  NCSR will take steps to react to cross-border complaints, applying the national Ethical Code, in case such ads are targeting Bulgarian users (e.g. website based in Bulgaria or using Bulgarian language or showing contact details in Bulgaria or prices in Bulgarian Leva).

4. Expert Group for Interpretation of the Ethical Code

4.1. The role of the Expert Group is to interpret the Ethical Code and to clarify the meanings of its provisions.

4.2. The Expert Group gives its opinion within two weeks except for cases of great complexity.

4.3. Interpretation can be requested by any individual or legal entity, including state and public authorities and courts. Inquires should be sent to the NCSR address. The inquiry must be supported by motivated explanation, specifying the background and the reasons for the inquiry. The applicants are entitled to submit any other information relevant to the inquiry.

4.4. The Expert Group for interpretation of the Code is summoned by the Secretariat when a need arises.

4.5. The Expert Group provides principle-based interpretations. It does not act in the capacity of arbitrator, nor it takes a side on specific cases. This does not exclude the possibility of appealing to the Expert Group for interpretation in connection to the given case.

4.6. The Expert Group consists of members, experienced professionals in the field of self-regulation and marketing ethics, and includes a chairman and 2 members, appointed by the Board for the renewable term of three years.

4.7. When appropriate, the Expert Group is entitled to draw experts and to make consultations with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and other trade organisations.

4.8. The resolutions of the Expert Group are taken with majority.

4.9. The Expert group tables an opinion to the NCSR Board for adoption. After its confirmation the opinion is final and is not subject to appeal. The opinion is published in its full text, unless well-grounded reasons are given against such publication.

4.10. If the opinion is not adopted, the Chairman of the Board sends it back to the Expert Group for revision, together with explanatory notes. In such a case, the procedure is the same as for a new inquiry for interpretation.

4.11. As a matter of principle, the Expert Group’s interpretation services of the Code are free of charge. When a particular inquiry is expected to lead to additional cost for the involvement of external experts and / or getting additional information, the NCSR Board can ask a fee to be paid in advance by the Claimant. If such a fee is not duly paid, the application for interpretation is not proceeded.

5. Application of Specific Codes

5.1. In addition to the national Code the NCSR may apply specific self-regulation norms of trade associations and other organisations, which are NCSR members. Such specific norms should not be contradicting the national Code.

5.2. For that purpose the Board shall enter into specific agreements, which contain:

a. specific scope of the regulation;

b. terms for adjudication by the EC;

c. applicable fee.

5.3. The specific codes will be applied only to the members of the respective branch or other organisations, which have adopted the particular code. For the non-members of the respective branch organizations, the decisions of the EC taken on the grounds of the specific codes are recommendatory.

5.4. The specific codes will be updated by the respective organisation or trade association in compliance with their statutes.

6. Ethical Committee (EC)

6.1. Purpose and method of work:

a. The Ethical Committee (EC) is the body that applies the Ethical code;

b. the main function of the EC is to analyze the commercial communication against which a claim has been registered and to take decisions about the conformity of the given communication with the regulations of the Ethical code;

c. The EC gathers to respond to a registered Claim.

6.2. Members

6.2.1. The NCSR Board, in keeping with art.25 of the Statute, appoints the EC with mandate of  3 years. It has 13 members:

a. chairman – an eminent expert, elected with qualified majority amongst the members of the EC with mandate of 3 years.

b. 12 regular members – eminent experts in the industry, who have been nominated by the regular NCSR members.

6.2.2. In the event of a vacancy in the EC, the expiry of its mandate is not awaited and the Board appoints immediately a new member within the current mandate of the EC.

6.3. Secretariat

6.3.1. The Secretariat supports the work of the Ethical Commitee and the Appeal Committee (AC) and the other NCSR operating bodies.

6.3.2. A representative of the Secretariat attends all the meetings of the EC and AC without right to participate in the discussions and without voting right. The Secretariat is obliged to keep the confidentiality of all the materials, discussions, votes and any other information obtained in the course of work of the committees.

7.  Making and Filing a Claim

7.1. A procedure before the EC is instituted in the event of claim made by an individual, a legal entity or state authority, or on Committee’s own initiative (self-appeal).

7.2. The claims are submitted in writing (by e-mail, fax, letter) to the address of the NCSR or by online electronic form on the NCSR website

7.3. No fees are paid for submitting a claim

7.4.  (1) When a complaint relates to advertising originating outside Bulgaria, such ad will be treated as a cross-border complaint. This means that it will be routed throught the Euroepan Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) to the self-reulatory body in the country of origin, where local ethical rules apply.  Complaint handling of such complaints is also free of charge.

(2) County of origin is the country where the publishing media is seated and in case of internet/digial ads or other forms of direct marketing – the country where the advertiser is seated.

8. Copy Advice

8.1. On demand from any of its members and other marketing specialists, the NCSR can make a preliminary review about the conformity of a particular commercial communication in spirit and in content with the requirements of the Ethical Code.

8.2. The Copy Advice is carried out by members of the NCSR bodies, appointed by the NCSR Board

8.3. The obtained review of the conformity of particular commercial communication with the Ethical Code does not waive the obligation of the receiving party to observe the legal regulations in force in the country.

8.4. The Copy Advice requests are sent in writing (by e-mail, fax, and letter) to the address of the NCSR, together with the commercial communication for which a copy advice has been requested.

8.5. The term for a standard Copy Advice is 3 days, while for urgent Copy Advice service, the term is 24 hours

8.6. The respective Copy Advice service is paid accordingly as per the fees defined by the Board .

8.7. In case a request for Copy Advice is withdrawn, the paid fee is subject to reimbursement.

9. Content of Claim

9.1. A claim should contain the following:
a. name and surname of the physical persons; for legal entities also UIC / court registration data of the claimant

b. contact address of the claimant – for physical persons; address (the main office and the address of operation) – for the legal entities;

c. description of the substance of the claim and explanation of the circumstances and motives upon which it is based;

d. evidence in support of the claim when available – incl. photos and videos

e. signature of the claimant or its authorised proxy. A valid e-mail address is required for claims submitted via the electronic form on the website of NCSR.

9.2. The EC does not consider claims, which have not been signed or are anonymous.

9.3. When deems so, the EC self-appeals a case for violation of the Ethical Code. In such a case, the Chairman of the EC, upon online accord with EC members, initiates a procedure on behalf of the EC. Such procedure is identical to the procedure applicable to any other claim made by physical or legal entity.

10. Withdrawal of a Claim

10.1. The claimant has the right to withdraw its claim at any stage of the procedure.

10.2. The withdrawal is effected by a written notification to NCSR. However, if the EC deems that the public interest requires so, it can continue with the proceeding at it’s own discretion.

11. Submitting a Claim

11.1. On receipt of a claim, the Secretariat examines the content and if all obligatory requisites as indicated in the Art. 9.1. are in place, it immediately registers the claim, starts a case proceeding and informs the claimant.

11.2. If the claim does not meet the requirements of Art. 9.1., par. a., b. and c., the claimant is sent a notice to eliminate within 3 days the irregularities made.

11.3. In the event of obvious inapplicability of the Code to the claim, the Secretariat can refuse registering the claim and starting a proceeding, and return it back to the Claimant with a written explanation.

11.4. A claim submitted for the second time on matter, which already has a resolution, will not be considered unless in connection with the execution of the decision or in case the new claim is based on new facts and circumstances. The resolutions related to such claims will concern only the new facts and circumstances.

11.5. The Secretariat keeps record of all the claims submitted and the correspondences related to them.

12. Initiation of Procedure

12.1. In the event of applicability of the Ethical Code to the filed claim, a procedure will be started.

12.2.(1) A procedure will not be initiated and an already started procedure will be terminated by resolution of the EC, in the following cases:
a. the respondent – legal entity has been obliterated
b. withdrawal of the claim, except for the cases per Art. 10.2.
c. the specified fee has not been paid, when such is required
d. the claim does not fall within the scope of the Ethical Code, and the Committee is not competent to pass a judgement

(2)The refusal of the Secretariat to start a procedure, or it’s discontinuation by the EC can be appealed before the Appeal Committee (AC).

12.3. Within one working day from filing the claim, without revealing the identity of the claimant, the Secretariat:
a. informs the Board;
b. contacts the respondent and notifies it on the presented circumstances of the filed claim and of other documents related to it (when available);
c. in parallel to the actions under point b., the Secretariat requires a written position from the respondent within one week from the date of the notification about the claim. Such a request is mailed return to the respondent or e-mailed with electronic signature. In case of factual complexity, when the collection of evidence by the respondent needs more time, upon its request, the term for presenting a position can be extended by the cairman of the EC for up to one week. The request for such extention has to be effected in writing to the Secretariat.
d. in the event of a request for Copy Advice, the Secretariat requires payment of the specified fee.

12.4. Within 3 days after starting a procedure, the Chairman of the EC appoints a rapporteur for the specific claim amongst the members of the committee. The rapporteur studies all materials and positions received and reports the case to the EC. The report is to be sent out to the Secretariat not later than 5 days before the date of the respective EC session.

13. Summoning the EC and Completion of the Procedure

13.1. Within 3 days from filing the claim, the Secretariat, after consulting the EC Chairman, invites the members of the EC to convene.

13.2. Within 3 days from filing the claim the EC members confirm participation in the suggested session.

13.3. In case of a written request by the parties related to the composition of the EC, The Secretariat presents the respective information within 3 days from the receipt of such request.

13.4. Not later than 5 days before the date of each session, the Secretariat sends to the members of the EC a copy of the claim, the position of the respondent, all collected materials and the report of the rapporteur.

13.5. Latest 5 days in advance, the Secretariat confirms the date of the EC session to all interested parties and bodies, indicated in the claim.

13.6. The proceeding before the EC is to be concluded in 1 month after it has started. In cases of high public importance this term can be shortened. In cases of factual and legal complexity, this term can be prolonged by one more month.

14. Additional documentation

14.1. In case the EC judges that additional proofs are required, its Chairman requires from the Secretariat, immediately and without unnecessary formalities, such proofs to be provided by the respondent with no delay.

14.2. At any time EC is entitled to require information, both from the parties in the procedure and from other sources, about the authenticity of the data, positions, descriptions, illustrations and recommendations cited in the advertising message.

14.3. In the event of ungrounded delay in provision of the required positions and proofs by the respondent, the EC is entitled to take a decision without hearing the respondent.

15. EC meetings

15.1. The EC sessions are attended by its members and a representative of the Secretariat. In case the Chairman is unable to take part in the session, he/she appoints another member of the EC, to chair the session.

15.2. The minimum quorum required for regular EC session is 9 members.

15.3. The EC discussions are confidential. After their appointment, each one of the EC members signs a Declaration of Confidentiality, kept by the Secretariat in the NCSR records.

15.4. The members of the EC are obliged to be struck off the session in case of conflict of interest

15.5. The respondent or its authrised in writing representative may be summoned at the meeting of the EC, as well as the claimant or the person (if different from the claimant) who has suffered damages as a result of the offence, or an authorized proxi

15.6. In the event of enhanced complexity of a particular case, the EC and any of the parties are entitled to draw external experts to present their view before the EC, provided that these experts do not participate in the EC discussions and voting and that they observe the confidentiality terms.

15.7. The fees for external experts and specialists are transfered in advance into the NCSR budget by the party, which has requested such experts, to the amount defined by the chairman of the committee

15.8. The EC hears the case’s reporteur, considers the written proofs authorized hears the positions of the parties. Тhe summoned parties can be asked questions.

15.9. When the EC Chairman considers the case circumstances clarified, he/she enables the summoned representatives of the parties to present their positions and arguments, one by one, in order determined by the EC Chairman. The parties do not participate in the discussions of the EC.

15.10. If there is a need to collect additional evidence or information, which are decisive for the correct judgment of the case, the review of the case is postponed for a next session.

15.11. Upon factual and legal clarification of the dispute, the Chairman winds up the discussion and passes on to voting for adjudication.

15.12. Minutes are made of each EC session and signed by the EC Chairman. The minutes are publicly available.

16. Voting

16.1. The EC members take decision by voting.

16.2. The vote is open and personal. Each member has the right to vote online 3 times in any 6 month period. Such an online vote has to be accompanied by written motives, sent out latest 24 hours prior to the respective session. The lack of written motives will be considered an absence from the session of the committee.
In the months July-August and December-January, the decisions of the EC may be taken in absentia, but with written motives, submitted by each and every member.

16.3. Every member has the right of one vote and is obliged to express opinion “for” or “against”. “Abstained” vote is not permitted.

16.4. The resolutions of the EC are taken with majority of not less than 7 votes.

17. Acts of the ethical Committee

17.1. The EC adjudicates with definitions, resolutions and recommendations which:
a. ascertains the breach of the Ethical Code and rules on termination of the breach;

b. finds no breach of the Ethical code and leaves claim not upheld ;

c. terminates the procedure when it is found outside the Committee’s competences;

d. can discontinue the procedure if the Claim is withdrawn;

e. issues recommendations and other precepts for application of the Ethical Code

17.2. A resolution should contain the following information:

a. date and place of the EC meeting;
b. attending EC members;
c. the initiator of the claim (the claimant), with the names of physical persons indicated with initials, while the legal entities аrе indicated with their full name
d. the subject of the Claim;
e. date of filing the Claim;
f. the factual circumstances, including the commercial communication and the respective text of the Ethical code which have been analyzed;
g. the resolution / sanction made and the motives for it;
h. the term for execution of the resolution.

17.3. The parties to the claim are notified of the EC act one working day after the resolution. The motives are sent in one week after the date of the session, by return mail or e-mail with electronic signature. In the case the ec act requires so, the Secretariat sends the resolution to the respective state organs and public organizations. The resolution is published on the NCSR website. The EC act is published on NCSR website and is announced to the media that aired the commercial communication, subject to the respective claim, as well as to the advertising agencies and the respective industry associations.

17.4. The Secretariat archives and stores in a file the EC resolution and all related to the case documents and materials.

18. Appeal Committee

18.1. The claimant has the right to appeal within a term of one week before the Appeal Committee (AC)
a. the refusal to start a procedure as per Art. 11.3
b. the discontinuation of a procedure by the EC as per the Art. 12.2 (2).

18.2. The claimant or the respondent have the right, within a term of one week from the receipt of the decision of the EC, to appeal the resolution before the AC, only in the event of:
а) collected new circumstances related to the claim and/or
б) violated procedures stipulated in the present Regulations
New circumstances are those, which in themselves are or, in connection with the previous motives for the resolution, can lead to resolution considerably different from the initial one.

18.3. The AC consists of a Chairman and 12 members and takes a decision with the majority of the participating members

18.4. The AC is appointed by the Board. The requirements for the AC members are the same as the ones for the members of the EC.

18.5. The regulations valid for EC summoning, meetings, voting, and adjudication are applied respectively to the AC.

18.6. The resolution of the AC is final and is not subject to further appeal.

18.7. A fee is paid for appeal before the AC, as defined by the Board.

19. Enactment of the Resolutions and Execution

19.1. The resolution of the EC / AC is binding for the NCSR members.

19.2. The term for fulfillment of the EC/AC resolution is one week from the receipt of the motivated resolution, unless the resolution itself stipulates other term

19.3. The EC/AC is entitled to require immediate execution of the resolution, when the particular commercial communication affects serious public interest.

19.4. For representatives of the advertising industry which are not members of the NCSR, the EC/AC resolution is not binding. In this case, when the resolution of the EC/AC finds that the respective commercial communication is in breach of the Ethical Code, the Board of the NCSR requires the violator to voluntarily discontinue the breach within the pre-defined term.

19.5. In the event that the Respondent to the Claim does not fulfill voluntarily the EC/AC resolution, the Board advises all NCSR members, the relevant regulating authorities and NGOs, attaching a copy of the resolution and all related proofs.

20. Announcement of the Resolution

20.1. All resolutions of the NCSR’s Ethical and AC are published in the NCSR website.

20.2. The Board may decide to publish a newsletter, press release or another form of announcement related to the resolution made.

20.3. None of the parties to the procedure is entitled to use the EC resolutions for advertising purposes.

21. Committee for post-monitoring

21.1. (1) In case a violation is found, along with the notification of the EC/AC resolution and the motives for it, the Secretariat sends request to the respondent to send to the NCSR or to an authorized by it entity, proofs of fulfillment of the resolution in due time;

(2) If such a term is not explicitly indicated in the resolution, the proofs are to be presented within one week from the receipt of the motives of the resolution of the EC/AC;

(3) The proofs should be sent by the respondent to NCSR or authorized by it person, by return mail or by e-mail.

21.2. The Committee for Post-monitoring (CPM):

a. executes control on the execution of the acts of the EC/AC;

b. implements monitoring of the advertising and commercial communications – at its discretion or on request of the Board;.

21.3. The Committee for Post-monitoring has five members and is managed by a chаirman;

21.4. Тhe chairman of the CPM is appointed on rotation principle by the Board with one year mandate.

21.5. The chairman summons CPM one day after notification from the Secretariat that the term for sending proofs for execution of the EC/AC resolution has elapsed. In case the Chairman I abscent, the meeting is summoned by the Secretariat.

21.6. For its findings, CPM compounds a protocol. The chairman sigs the protocol and sends it through the Secretariat to the Board.

21.7. For monitoring, assigned by the Board, CPM creates a report.

21.8. In the event that, as a result of the monitoring as per. Art. 21.2.b, a breach of Code is registered, CPM submits a claim, in keeping with the rules of these Regulations.

In force as of September 25th, 2009
Amended on November 16th, 2009
Amended on June 25th, 2010
Amended on November 5th, 2010
Amended on January 12, 2011
Ammenden November 14, 2012
Ammended May 25, 2013
Ammenden March 10, 2015