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Misleading or offensive advertising

It's simple to complain about an advert that you find offensive or untruthful. Find out here which organisations deal with each kind of advertising. Plus what you can do if you think an advert needs removing straight away.

How to complain about an advert

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) makes sure all adverts follow a code of practice. You can complain to the ASA if:

  • you think there is something wrong with an advert you have seen or heard
  • you find an advert offensive, such as on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability

The ASA will investigate complaints about all adverts, except those:

  • about financial services
  • you receive over the telephone

Financial products and services

Adverts for banking, investment and insurance are looked after by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). 

Telephone adverts

PhonepayPlus deals with complaints about phone-paid services in the UK. For example, telephone calls that say you have won a holiday and then ask you to call an expensive telephone line to claim it.

How to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority

The ASA will need to have your complaint in writing. An online complaint form is available from the ASA website. If possible include:

  • a copy of the advert
  • details of where and when it appeared
  • the reason you believe the advert is misleading

What happens to your complaint

The ASA will look into your complaint and keep you up to date about the progress of your case. They will then let you know about their final decision.

The ASA can issue a ruling or 'adjudication' against the advertiser. This means they can demand that:

  • the advertisement is taken down
  • the misleading information will not be repeated in future

What if an advert is so offensive or obscene that it may be illegal?

Contact the Obscene Publications Unit of the Home Office which will be able to offer advice. Any complaints of obscenity would then be given to the police to investigate.

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