Time for robust and independent enforcement

Blog posted by Nick Stringer
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EU self-regulation for behavioural ads needs robust and independent enforcement, argues Nick Stringer, Director of Regulatory Affairs at the IAB UK.

Earlier this week (4 February) the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) began its new remit to enforce UK rules to provide greater transparency and consumer control over behavioural ads. The rules complement the existing EU Framework for behavioural advertising for ad tech businesses (eg ad networks), supported by the UK Government as well as the European Commission.

At the initiative’s heart is an icon that is now widespread across all EU (and EEA) markets in or around ads and also on web pages. Consumers across Europe are now one click away from information about data collected and used for behavioural ads. And this information includes links to mechanisms of control, such as the pan-EU industry site, www.youronlinechoices.eu, now available in 24 different languages. The site is also packed with helpful information and videos to inform consumers about how it all works (the UK version is at www.youronlinechoices.eu/uk). Official providers, Evidon and TRUSTe, are now serving over 10bn icons a month across EU markets and, later this year, the ad industry will launch a consumer campaign to help raise awareness of the icon, what it means and what it does.

The ASA’s new role is a welcome and needed development. It will inject a ‘tried and tested’ enforcement process and provide consumers with independent recourse in the event of an unresolved complaint, backed by a set of robust sanctions. This development is one that will be replicated across Europe and regardless of where the consumer is located they will have access to a set of self-regulatory organisations, such as the ASA, giving them the confidence that issues can be looked into and resolved by a body steeped in self-regulatory history and credibility. Likewise for businesses there will be a consistent approach across Europe where they only deal with one self-regulatory body in their ‘country of origin’.

Underpinning the ASA’s role will be an independent verification process that will check – on an ongoing basis - that businesses are delivering on what they have committed to, regardless of any consumer complaint, supported by a new trust seal to provide the ad market with evidence of compliance. The approach is an innovation in self-regulation and one that businesses and other stakeholders have heavily invested in to provide consumers, the ad market and legislators / regulators with trust in evolving ad business models that underpin the internet. You can discover how the ASA’s role will work in practice here. Businesses looking to know more about the whole initiative, including how to licence the icon, can visit the IAB’s FAQs.

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