Recent developments serve to demonstrate the increased scrutiny of advertising in all sectors in Ireland, and in particular of website content which constitutes advertising. Companies should ensure that all advertising is strictly compliant with the relevant guidance/code to ensure that they avoid the negative publicity arising from a complaint or a negative finding and any associated media coverage.

Complaints upheld by the ASAI in relation to website content

There has been recent newspaper coverage in relation to a complaint upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (the "ASAI") regarding claims made in relation to the ketogenic diet by Patricia Daly, a nutritionist, on the websites www.patriciadaly.com and www.ketoforyou.com. The ASAI found that despite the disclaimers included in some parts of the websites and the fact that the diet was being promoted as an adjunct to medical cancer treatment, the information provided was likely to mislead consumers and in particular, vulnerable cancer patients, "regarding the efficacy of the diet as claimed". On this basis, the website content was found to be in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the ASAI Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland (the "ASAI Code").

More generally, it is notable that eight out of the thirteen complaints included in the most recent ASAI bulletin related to websites (some of these also related to other media platforms), only one of which was not upheld. For further details on the ASAI Code please see our previous briefings: here and here.

Updated Code for Advertising of Pharmaceuticals

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (the "IPHA"), which represents the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland, has issued an updated version of the Code of Standards of Advertising Practice for the Consumer Healthcare Industry (the "IPHA Code") that comes into effect on 1 July 2017. The aim of the IPHA Code is to ensure high standards in the advertising of nonprescription medicinal products.

The main changes under the updated IPHA Code include:

  • clarification that: (i) the ASAI is the appropriate forum for complaints regarding the advertising of medical devices; and (ii) only after companies have exhausted attempts at intercompany resolution should a formal complaint be made to the ASAI;
  • removal of references to some blanket restrictions on analgesics, cough mixtures, anti-diarrhoeals on the basis that these are already included in the relevant licences; and
  • inclusion of detail in relation to the composition and operation of the Code Committee, who hear and resolve complaints under the IPHA Code.