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Tuesday, 12 October 1999
Page: 11408


Mr McClelland asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 9 August 1999:

(1) Further to the Minister's detailed response to question No. 2088 (Hansard , 24 September 1997, page 8450), what standards apply to regulation of content of advertising material contained in (a) print media and (b) outdoor advertising.

(2) What mechanisms exist for members of the public to complain about inappropriate advertising material contained in the (a) print media and (b) outdoor advertising.

(3) Is the Government considering amending either the standards or complaint procedures, if so, what changes are being considered.


Mr Hockey (Financial Services and Regulation) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Trade Practices Act 1974 and State and Territory fair trading legislation establish basic standards of fair business conduct, such as a general prohibition on misleading and deceptive conduct, that apply to all commercial advertisements—including advertising in the print media and outdoor advertising.

In addition, advertising—including advertising in the print media and outdoor advertising—is subject to a scheme of industry self-regulation developed and administered by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA). The AANA scheme is based on the Advertiser Code of Ethics, which sets industry standards for advertising material. A copy of the Advertiser Code of Ethics is attached.

[There is also specific regulation for advertising of certain goods. For example, specific standards apply to the advertising of products impinging on public health, such as tobacco, therapeutic goods and infant formula, which are the policy responsibility of the Minister for Health and Aged Care.]

(2) Members of the public can complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or to State and Territory fair trading agencies about advertising material in the print media and outdoor advertising that may breach the Trade Practices Act or State and Territory fair trading legislation.

Members of the public can complain about inappropriate advertising material in the print media and outdoor advertising to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB). The ASB is an independent body made up of members of the public who are chosen to reflect prevailing community attitudes. The ASB is an initiative of the AANA and is funded by industry.

The ASB applies Section 2 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics; it does not consider complaints about the truth, accuracy or legality of advertisements, referring such complaints to the relevant government agency for action. The ASB determines whether a complaint should be dismissed or upheld. If the ASB upholds a complaint against an advertisement, the advertiser has an opportunity to modify or discontinue the offending advertisement.

(3) The Government is not proposing changes to the substantive consumer protection provisions in Part V of the Trade Practices Act at this time.

The Government has a commitment to effective industry self-regulation. The Government cannot unilaterally amend a voluntary industry code of conduct or change voluntary industry complaint handling procedures. However, the Government has developed, and continues to develop, policy guidelines on self-regulation and industry based dispute schemes in consultation with industry that shape the development of self-regulatory schemes in Australia.

Attachment

Advertiser Code of Ethics

This Code has been adopted by AANA to be applied as a means of advertising self-regulation in Australia and is intended to be applied to all forms of advertising.

The object of this Code is to ensure that advertisements are legal, decent, honest and truthful and that they have been prepared with a sense of obligation to the consumer and society and fair sense of responsibility to competitors.

In this Code, the term "advertisement" shall mean matter which is published or broadcast in all of Australia or in a substantial section of Australia for payment or other valuable consideration and which draws the attention of the public, or a segment of it, to a product, service, person, organisation or line of conduct in a manner calculated to promote or oppose directly or indirectly that product, service, person, organisation or line of conduct.

1.1 Advertisements shall comply with Commonwealth law and the law of the relevant State or Territory.

1.2 Advertisements shall not be misleading or deceptive or be likely to mislead or deceive.

1.3 Advertisements shall not contain a misrepresentation which is likely to cause damage to the business or goodwill of a competitor.

1.4 Advertisements shall not exploit community concerns in relation to protecting the environment by presenting or portraying distinctions in products or services advertised in a misleading way or in a way which implies a benefit to the environment which the product or services do not have.

1.5 Advertisements shall not make claims about the Australian origin or content of products advertised in a manner which is misleading.

2.1 Advertisements shall not portray people in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability or political belief.

2.2 Advertisements shall not present or portray violence except unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.

2.3 Advertisements shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience and, where appropriate, the relevant program time zone.

2.4 Advertisements for any product which is meant to be used by or purchased by children shall not contain anything which is likely to cause alarm or distress to those children.

2.5 Advertisements shall only use language which is appropriate in the circumstances and strong or obscene language shall be avoided.

2.6 Advertisements shall not depict material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.

Source: Australian Association of National Advertisers website, (20 September 1999).