The idea of advertising is to inform people about products and services as well as promoting them. However, it is important for the people making these products and services to be aware of their responsibilities. Knowing the legal issues around advertising will prevent any problems later on.

What to be aware of

The main factors that businesses need to be aware of is that their advertising needs to be accurate, legal, and socially responsible (not promoting anti-social behaviour.) Regulations and codes of practice need to be followed in order to ensure adverts are suitable for the intended audience.

Context is important too- for example, you can only claim a drink is low alcohol if it is between 0.5 per cent to 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume.

Promoting to consumers

When promoting to a consumer, you cannot use false messages (for example, saying the food is low fat when it isn’t), leaving out important information or promotion via aggressive sales techniques. All of this is covered under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Promoting to businesses

There are also issues when it comes to using other businesses’ logos or mentioning them in your promotion. This can include comparing a competitor’s product with one of your products that is not a fair comparison.

Advertising code of practice

The two main codes cover non-broadcast and broadcast media. Non-broadcast covers print media such as magazines or direct marketing like flyers or promotional emails. The code covers issues such as appropriate advertising to children, not causing offence or inappropriate political advertising.

When it comes to online or direct marketing, it is important that you check that you have received consent to send that marketing to the consumer, as well as providing clear opt-outs. This also applies to cookies and how your website uses them.

Broadcast media like TV and radio also covers issues of appropriateness, but with further considerations with regard to scheduling (for example, advertising for online gambling should not be on during children’s television programmes.)

In both cases, the promotion should be fair and not misleading, such as providing accurate prices (VAT should be made clear, or when a free trial of a subscription ends).

If an advert is found to be inappropriate, it can be withdrawn, and if it is found to have breached laws, then you risk being prosecuted.


If you are found to have breached any rules, you could be reported to your local Trading Standards. This can potentially result in fined, prosecuted, or in the most serious cases, you could be imprisoned.

We can help

There are various legal issues that can arise due to misleading advertising. Our legal specialists can check your advertising and marketing campaigns to prevent any issues that could potentially arise, or we can also discuss if you would like to make a claim against a company due to their misleading promotional activity. For more information, please contact us today so we can discuss your issues in more detail.