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Complaints soar over online ads

A record number of advertisements received complaints in 2006, says the Advertising Standards Authority’s annual report, and complaints about online ads rose by 33 per cent.

However, the report also shows that although 12,842 ads had complaints lodged against them, the total number of complaints fell by 14.5 per cent on the previous year to 22,429.

No financial services ads featured in the top 10 most complained about ads of the year.

Over 2,400 ads were changed or withdrawn as a result of ASA action during the year. The ad that received the most complaints (553) was a national press ad put out by the Gay Police Association featuring a pool of blood next to a bible to allegedly relating to religious motivation behind homophobic incidents.

Second was a national press ad from HM Revenue & Customs (271 complaints) depicting a self-employed plumber evading tax by hiding under a kitchen sink. The ASA found it did not imply that all self-employed people were tax evaders and complaints were not upheld.

ASA chairman Lord Borrie QC says: “The boundaries of regulatory responsibility online are still unclear. The industry needs to address this issue quickly so consumer faith in online messages can be as high as it is for advertising that appears in traditional formats.”

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