From 23 November the ASA will utilise new “Prioritisation Principles” to assess how to respond to and handle complaints - the intention being to place greater focus on the issues that have the biggest impact. 

The ASA has adopted a set of Prioritisation Principles relating to its response and handling of complaints. The main aim of the principles is to ensure that consumers, society and responsible advertisers benefit from the work of the ASA. The principles will ensure the ASA places a greater emphasis on those issues which have the biggest impact – in particular issues which present the greatest potential for detriment and harm.

From 23 November the ASA will use the new principles to decide when to use current investigation procedures and when to deal with those issues by other means. 

In particular, the ASA will consider:

  • The harm or detriment that has or might occur as a result of the breach of ASA rules.
  • The balance of risk between taking action versus inaction.
  • The potential impact of intervention by the ASA.
  • What resources would be proportionate to the particular issue in question.

The ASA has confirmed that, as previously, whenever a complaint indicates that the ASA rules have been broken it will act and will vary its approach depending on the nature of the issues raised (resolving cases informally where possible and avoiding formal investigation). In addition the ASA will now make greater use of its published advice and guidance to help advertisers stick to the rules.

According to the ASA most complainants and advertisers will not be affected by the new principles because the best course of action will typically be to deal with complaints as before (i.e by informal resolution with the advertiser or by a formal ASA ruling). Where the new principles do apply to a particular complaint the ASA will write to the relevant advertiser and complainant explaining the decision and the action that it has taken.

The ASA considers that this new option of writing to advertisers instead of initiating an investigation will allow it to act proportionately in response to different complaints meaning that it has more time to focus on issues that present greater potential for detriment and harm. It indicates that those bigger issues will be dealt with either through a formal investigation or by other means (for example, sector wide work) as it seeks to continue to develop and become a more proactive regulator.