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Consumer Code

The Consumer Code is a simplified summary of the Code of Advertising Practice to guide consumers about advertising rules.This quick guide contains extracts of sections of the Code of Advertising Practice that specifically relate to consumer concerns.It is presently available in a brochure format, in English, Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa.
  • Introduction
  • The essence of the Code
  • Summary of the Principles of the Code
  • How to lodge a complaint
  • Where to send complaints
  • What happens when the rules are broken


This is a summary of the principles contained in the Code of Advertising Practice.This summary does not replace the Code but provides an easy reference for consumers to better know and understand their rights.Readers are advised to refer to the actual Code to fully understand the summarised principles.This Code covers advertising in all media (including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor, internet etc).

The essence of the Code

It is a requirement of the Code that all advertising should be legal, decent, honest and truthful, and be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer.

Summary of the Principles of the Code
Animals and Advertising
No advertisement may contain anything that might reasonably be thought to encourage or condone cruelty or irresponsible behaviour towards animals.
Children and Young People
Advertisements addressed to or likely to influence children should not contain anything which may cause them harm mentally, morally, physically or emotionally. Advertisements should not exploit children's natural trust, lack of experience or their sense of loyalty. Advertisements should not portray children in a sexually provocative or suggestive manner.

Advertisements should not contain anything that is discriminatory, unless, in the opinion of the Advertising Standards Authority such discrimination is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
Educational courses
Advertisements for educational courses should not mislead as to the status or extent of recognition of the qualification that can be obtained.
Advertisements should not use fear tactics without justifiable reason.
Financial Advertising
Advertisements for financial products or services should take special care to ensure that the public are fully aware of the nature of any commitment they may enter into as a result of responding to the advertisement.Advertisers should take note of the complexities of finance, especially when advertising to consumers, and should not take advantage of the lack of experience, knowledge or trust of consumers.
"Free” offers
Advertisements should not describe products as "free” if there is any cost payable by a consumer except for delivery or postage costs. If there are any costs relating to delivery and postage it must be stated clearly in the advertisement.
Furniture advertising
Advertisements for furniture which show additional items, but which are not included in the price, shall clearly state that the additional items are excluded.
If a guarantee is offered in an advertisement, the full terms and conditions of that guarantee should be available in printed form, for the consumer to inspect.
Advertisements should be honest and not abuse consumer's trust or lack of knowledge
Training courses
Advertisements for instructional courses should not contain misleading promises of employment or exaggerate the opportunity of employment or future income to those who are interested in taking such courses.
Illegal activities
Advertisements should not show anything, which may encourage or support criminal or illegal activity.
Misleading claims
Advertisements should not contain any statements or visual presentations, which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggeration is likely to mislead consumers.

Miracle healing (faith healing)
Advertisements should not make claims or inferences of medical or miracle healing.
Money-back undertaking
The claim "money-back” in the advertisement should only be used if a full refund of the purchase price is offered to dissatisfied consumers.Where such an undertaking is given, the time within which the offer is valid should be clearly indicated in the advertisement.
Non-availability of advertised products
Advertisements should not be published unless the advertiser has reasonable grounds for believing that any demand that is likely to be crated by advertising can be met.
Offensive advertising
Advertisements should not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread or sectoral offence.The fact that a particular product, service or advertisement may be offensive to some is not in itself sufficient ground for upholding an objection to an advertisement for that product or service.In considering whether an advertisement is offensive, the context, medium, likely audience, nature of the product or service, prevailing standards, degree of social concern and public interest will among others be taken into account.
Advertisements should not portray or refer to any living person(s) by whatever means unless their permission has been obtained.This excludes among others:
Individuals that are shown in a crowd or background provided that the portrayal is not offensive.
Portrayal of individuals who form part of the subject matter on advertisements for books, films, radio or television programmes, press features etc.
Advertisements should not without justifiable reason, show any dangerous practices or situations.
Self-employment opportunities
Advertisements for self-employment opportunities may not be phrased in a manner which is likely to lead to the opportunity being confused with part-time or normal employment.
Such advertisements may not require any money to be sent before full information about the self-employment opportunity is supplied to the consumer.
Selling without express consent from consumers
Advertisers may not supply advertised goods or services to consumers without consumers' express authority.
Substantiation of claims
Advertisers should have available acceptable proof of all factual claims made in advertising.
Advertisements should not show anything, which may encourage or support acts of violence.

How to lodge a complaint
  • The complaint must be in writing.
  • The name and contact details of the person complaining must be supplied.
  • The reasons for complaining must be clearly stated.
  • The advertisement complained about must be enclosed.If it is a television, radio or any broadcast advertisement, a brief description must be given.
  • All consumer complaints will be dealt with free of charge.

Where to send complaints
By delivery, to the ASA at:
Willowview, Burnside Island Office Park
410 Jan Smuts Avenue
Craighall Park

By post to:
P O Box 4155

By fax to: (011) 781-1616

What happens when the rules are broken?
If the advertising breaks the rules of the Code of Advertising Practice, the advertiser will have to amend or withdraw the advertisement.

If there is no co-operation from the advertiser, an Ad-Alert will be issued.
Where necessary further action against the advertiser will be taken.

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