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Speech: Roy - Advertising Standards

Advertising Standards And Self-Regulation

Hon Heather Roy, Minister of Consumer Affairs
Tuesday, December 8 2009

Hon Heather Roy address to the Advertising Standards Authority; Turnbull House, Bowen Street, Wellington; Tuesday, December 8 2009.

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, and thank you Rick for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to attend your Christmas function and to speak to you tonight.

I remember well my first introduction to advertising - it was part of my Seventh Form English curriculum when we explored the wordplays, the nuances, the clever, the witty, and the fun use of the English language to sell a product or get a message across. Of course there was also the innuendo, the coarse and the blatant misuse of the same English language.

Advertising is useful and cultural. It sells products, and reflects and comments on society. Advertising is always vying for our attention, and everyone has an opinion about it. Media is changing and advertising is changing with it.

New media creates opportunities to communicate with existing and potential customers in new ways. The rapid growth of interactive advertising shows the advertising industry is responding to this. So far this year the Advertising Standards Authority has received over 1,200 complaints about 770 advertisements. The Complaints Board upheld or settled just under 50 percent of complaints that met the threshold.

Most complaints are about advertising on TV and websites, with the majority being about truthful presentation - whether the advertisement is misleading - or matters relating to offensiveness or social responsibility.

It won't surprise you to know that, as an ACT MP, I strongly support industry self-regulation.

Consumers can, and do, make the best decisions for themselves when they have all the necessary and accurate information. Advertising plays a key part in this - as does the ASA, whose self-regulation system compliments Government legislation in this area.

Self-regulation can always improve on legislation by promoting compliance and providing advice, creating extra benefits for consumers and businesses. It is very pleasing to see the way that the ASA supports industry to make good decisions with pre-vetting advice and training standards, and to see your industry's commitment to the Code and respect for ASA decisions.

Industry can always be more responsive than regulation can, and the ASA has been quick to respond to current issues. This year's new Code for the Naming, Labelling, Packaging and Promotion of Liquor is an example of this. I know it has been a busy year, with the ASA Code for Advertising to Children and the ASA Code for Advertising of Food also having been reviewed this year.

The ASA's commitment to independence supports the credibility of the system.

It's also important for people to be able to make a complaint when aggrieved, and for those complaints to be taken seriously. The online complaint process makes it easy for people to do just tat, and the 87 percent awareness of ASA's complaints process is impressive.

Part of my job as Minister of Consumer Affairs is to make sure that consumers have the best information to make their own decisions. If there's a problem, I want them to be able to easily get a resolution.

I have initiated a project called 'One Law, One Door'.

'One Law' refers to a goal of a principle-based piece of consumer-supplier legislation similar to the approach found in the Privacy Act. I have instructed the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to review the 12 pieces of consumer law for their relevance to today and their ability to be relevant into the future as many seem to have been overtaken by time or technology. We need principles-based legislation to cover what is a relatively simple process of transaction with a buyer, a seller and a guiding set of principles to cover a sale scenario. I ho

'One Door' refers to a simplified complaints apparatus rather than a system that leaves the consumer to negotiate the host of complaints and disputes tribunals, ombudsmen and so on that currently serve to confuse the applicant while sometimes adding cost to the taxpayer - one place or portal through which they can go to get the advice they need on 'where to from here' when there is a problem.

In fact, the ASA's 'Complaint Line website - which provides information about who people can go to if they have a complaint - is being considered as a potential model for 'One Door'. I look forward to launching the redeveloped Complaint Line website ( next year.

The Government is committed to intervening only where regulation is required, reasonable and robust. Existing legislation is being reviewed to identify and remove unnecessary, ineffective and excessively costly requirements.

I strongly support a fair market place that respects consumer choices and can operate effectively without unnecessary intervention by Government. The commitment from everyone in this room to the advertising standards helps to achieve that goal for the advertising industry.

Thank you again for the invitation tonight, and I hope you enjoy your evening.


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