Advice Line - Advertising standards: know your responsibilities

Steve Tolan examines some of the checks and balances affecting physio staff in the advertising field

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has a remit to make sure that all advertisements are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

These aims will resonate with physio staff in their day-to-day clinical practice, but how aware are you of your responsibilities in advertising your services or ability to report bad practice by others?

The ASA proactively monitors media and also acts on complaints in relation to advertising, through applying its standards to both broadcast and non-broadcast media (including websites).

‘Just one complaint can lead to an ad being withdrawn…if the complaint is upheld’, the ASA notes.

This statement reminds us to be robust in our own adherence to ASA standards and to be aware that we can submit complaints about others if necessary.

While the ASA’s primary aim is to protect consumers and resolve complaints, it can also sanction advertisers in various ways if they fail to comply with its decisions.

This includes referring offenders to the Office of Fair Trading for prosecution.

This can be a powerful additional tool in protecting the physiotherapy title in advertising, combating false claims by medical and alternative practitioners and removing defamatory comments from the public domain.

In order to ensure that the offending advertisement is dealt with as swiftly as possible, the ASA requires that, in the first instance, any complaints are raised directly with competitors.

Often this will resolve the issues at hand.

However, where no amicable solution can be reached an online complaint can be submitted to the ASA including evidence of the offending advertisement and the unsuccessful correspondence.

Media and advertising represents such a huge and diverse form of communication that the CSP needs the help of its members to identify and address inappropriate advertising by physiotherapists and other professionals.

This can generally be achieved through informal communication between parties, but, where necessary, the ASA is there to support individuals and organisations to maintain legal, decent, honest and truthful communication with patients.

For further information, including the ASA standards and complaints procedure, visit:
Steve Tolan is a CSP professional adviser

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Steve Tolan

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