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Advertising standards and the web

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Earlier this year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that the CAP Code, which governs advertisement content in the media such as online, posters and the press, will be extended to website content and social media such as Twitter and Facebook from 1st March 2011. The CAP code is intended to ensure that advertisements do not mislead, harm or offend, that they are socially responsible. They also contain specific rules for certain products or markets such as alcoholic drinks, children, gambling and health products. The new remit will specifically apply to: • Advertisers' own marketing communications on their own websites • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. But journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes and ideas - except those that are direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising - are excluded. There is a six month period of grace before the new code comes in and you can read more about it on the ASA website Link to: They are also encouraging website owners to sign up to CAP Services to receive guidance and training to help ensure their sites comply with the new rules before 1 March 2011 Link to: AdWords Google's AdWords service enables a business to get their product or service higher up Google's list when its search facility is used. A business buys a word or series of words (known as an AdWord) which, when typed into the "search for" panel, results in the business's advertisement appearing at the top or on the right hand side of the results page under the "sponsored links" section. Legal difficulties, however, arise when a business uses the name of another business (for example that of the market leader) to attract business to its own site. In the recent European Court of Justice case Portakabin Ltd and Portakabin BV v Primakabin BV it was held that a company can prevent another company from using its name as an AdWord if the advertisement does not make it clear that the goods or services advertised are not being provided by the original trade mark owner. If the advertisement fails to make this clear, the advertiser is guilty of trade mark infringement. The same applies where miss-spellings of the other company's name are used as an AdWord (for example Portakabin). Back to basics When designing a website, most of us focus on the style and look of the site, the photographs of our products and the words we write. But it is important to remember that the website must, by law, provide certain information so it's worth checking to be sure you comply on all counts. The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, which came into force on 21st August 2002, requires any commercial website to set out the business's correct name (which may be different from its trading name), its e-mail address, its geographical address, details of any trade or professional body that it belongs to, its VAT number, if any, and a contact telephone number or e-mail contact form. If the business is a limited company, it must also state the registered office address and the registered number and place of registration. Any prices quoted on the site must be clear and it must be evident whether or not those prices include VAT and delivery. The Regulations also set out rules for making contracts online. The seller must set out, in a clear, comprehensible and unambiguous manner, the steps that the buyer must follow to conclude the contract, whether the contract will be filed or whether it will be permanently accessible, the means for identifying input errors prior to placing the order, and the languages offered. The site must provide a link to any relevant code of conduct and the terms and conditions of the contract must be made available in such a way that the buyer can store and reproduce them. • For additional information or comment please contact: Neil Ashford of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.