Companies should take steps to fully review the 7th Edition of the Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications In Ireland (the “Code”) which came into force in March 2016 and ensure that their policies on marketing communications are updated to reflect the new Code.

The Code

The Code is drawn up by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (“ASAI”) which is the independent self-regulatory body of the advertising industry. The Code sets out the rules of advertising which have as their objective that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

The Code applies to the majority of marketing communications including both print and digital communications and those broadcast on television or screened in cinemas. The Code includes specific rules for marketing communications (including ads) in relation to:

  • promotional marketing practices (Section 5);
  • distance selling (Section 6);
  • children (Section 7);
  • food and non-alcoholic beverages (Section 8);
  • alcoholic drinks (Section 9);
  • gambling (Section 10);
  • health and beauty (Section 11);
  • slimming (Section 12);
  • financial services and products (Section 13);
  • employment and business opportunities (Section 14);
  • environmental claims (Section 15);
  • occasional training (Section 16);
  • e-cigarettes (Section 17); and
  • online behavioural advertising (Section 18).

The Code also includes general rules and rules on misleading advertising. The appendices to the Code set out the complaints procedure, copy advice, monitoring and review.

Changes In The 7th Edition:

Most sections of the Code have been changed from the previous edition, but the most notable changes are:

  • Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages: The Code now includes that all marketing communications must be read in conjunction with the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (1169/2011) and the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (1924/2006). Marketing communications making health or nutrition claims must be supported by documentary evidence. The Code also sets out health and nutrition claims which are not acceptable in marketing communications.
  • Gambling: Gambling is broadly defined in the Code and includes gaming, betting, lotteries, bingo and amusement arcade games. Under the code, advertisements for gambling must include a message to encourage responsible gambling and include a direction to information on gambling and responsible gambling. The rules also outline the manner in which gambling should be portrayed and specifies that marketing communications for gambling may not appeal to children. (Section 10)
  • E-Cigarettes: An e-cigarette is defined in the Code as a product intended for inhalation of vapour via a mouth piece, or any component of that product, including but not limited to cartridges, tanks, or e-liquids. The Code requires that marketing communications for these products are socially responsible and must not make a connection to or promote a tobacco product. Only medical claims authorised by the Health Products Regulatory Authority are permitted. The advertisements must not use celebrities or medical professional to endorse the products and any person appearing in marketing communications who pay a significant role or are using an e-cigarette must not be, or appear to be, under 25. (Section 17)

What happens if companies breach the Code?

Businesses should be aware that a marketing communication which breaks the rules must be withdrawn or amended. The media is also required not to publish a marketing communication which does not comply with the Code. Where an ASAI decision is not accepted by the advertiser, this can lead to disciplinary action by the Board of the ASAI which can include penalties, fines and/or suspension of membership of ASAI.