All marketing and advertising must be:
- an accurate description of the product or service
- socially responsible (not encouraging illegal, unsafe or anti-social behaviour)
There are regulations that restrict what advertisers can and can’t do.
As well as the regulations, there are 2 advertising codes of practice that you need to follow to help you advertise legally.
You must describe your product or service accurately.
Requirements for specific products
There are also specific requirements that apply to certain sectors, such as:
- beauty products
- environmentally friendly products
For example, you can only claim your drink is ‘low in alcohol’ if it contains between 0.5% and 1.2% alcohol by volume.
If you’re gathering, storing or using information about customers or potential customers, you must also protect their data.
If you’re advertising or marketing, including direct marketing, you must be accurate and honest and follow the advertising codes of practice
You must describe your product accurately. This means if you make a claim about your product, you must be able to prove what you say.
Your adverts must describe the actual cost accurately, including any ongoing or associated costs (eg subscription fees) and taxes (eg VAT).
Example A customer pays Â£50 a product, without being told the price doesn’t include VAT. This was not explained in the advert, so the advert is misleading.
You must check if customers want to be contacted by fax, phone, post or email, and give them the chance to object.
When you collect customer details, you must get their permission if you want to send them other offers or promotions.
You must also ask for their permission if you want to share their information with another organisation.
Letting customers opt out
Customers have the right to stop their information being used for direct marketing.
You must make it easy to opt out - eg by sending a 'STOP' text to a short number, or using an ‘unsubscribe’ link.
Telesales and fax marketing
You must say who you are when you make a telesales call, and give your address or phone number if you’re asked for it. The number for customers to call must be a freephone number.
You’re not allowed to send marketing faxes to individuals unless you’ve received their prior permission, but you can send unsolicited faxes to companies.
You must check that you’re not contacting anyone who’s asked not to receive these calls or faxes, using the:
It's illegal to phone or fax someone registered with these services if you don't have their permission. You can be fined Â£5,000 for each unsolicited phonecall.
If you want to make automated calls - with pre-recorded phone messages - you must get the permission of the individual or business first.
Check that your mailing lists don’t include anyone who’s asked not to receive direct mailing, using the Mail Preference Service.
Email marketing and text messages
You’re only allowed to send marketing emails to individual customers if they’ve given you permission.
Emails or text messages must clearly indicate:
- who you are
- that you’re selling something
- what the promotions are, and any conditions
Check that you aren’t sending emails to anyone who’s asked not to receive them, using the Email Preference Service.
If you buy or rent a mailing list, ask the supplier if you have the right to use it for email marketing.
Every marketing email you send must give the person the ability to opt out of (or ‘unsubscribe from’) further emails.
The information should be easy to understand.
Customers can complain if you misuse their information, and you could be ordered to pay a fine or compensation.