12 november 2002
Nkwenke Nkomo and Delien Beukes
The need for consumer protection and high ethical standards in advertising is recognised by marketers across the world.
The International Code of Advertising Practice, prepared by the International Chamber of Commerce, serves as the basis for all self-regulatory systems. It requires advertising to be legal, decent, honest and truthful, prepared with a sense of social responsibility to society and to respect the rules of fair competition.
Internationally the rules are applied by properly designed and well-administered independent bodies (SRO's) to provide a swift, flexible, inexpensive and effective means of resolving disputes between the industry and consumers and between players in the industry.
The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) complies with international standards and best practice, an important requirement to international companies who consider investing in South Africa.
The ASA and its Code has statutory recognition in the IBA Act and broadcasters are subject to the requirements of the Code of Advertising Practice as determined and administered by the ASA.
As a body serving the public interest, the ASA embarked on a process of transformation in the early nineties. This process gained momentum in 1999 when a Strategic Review was conducted to ensure that the ASA was "structured and directed to fulfill its role in a new society".
Decisions taken during the Strategic Review were subsequently implemented and relate to the following:
- Independence of the ASA
- The Code of Advertising Practice
- Public participation in decision making
- Interpretation of the Code
- Informing consumers of their rights
- Public reporting
- Co-operation with Government, Statutory and Consumer bodies
- Industry sensitisation
- Staffing policy
One of the ASA's principal concerns for the future is the fact that for so long as it remains an entirely voluntary self-regulatory body its jurisdiction will be conned to those who voluntarily submit to its jurisdiction.
It is therefore desirable to extend the statutory framework within which it operates beyond the IBA Act. An extended statutory framework could give "teeth" to the ASA's sanctions.
If statutory self-regulation were to be achieved, the ambit of the ASA's activities will be expanded. This would necessitate an increase in the funds required to finance the ASA's activities. Whilst there is no reason why advertisers themselves should not be called on to fund competitor complaints, the issue of consumer complaints is more complex.
It is proposed that the ASA engages with Government in a forum where all relevant stakeholders are represented to extend the statutory underpinning of self-regulation and to explore funding possibilities for the future.
- Nkwenke Nkomo and Delien Beukes