A proposal for a self-regulated industry code for Internet marketing has been drawn up by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Among its elements are the foundation of an Internet marketing standards authority with its own complaints board, a push to comply with emerging world standards and the creation of a "Safe Trading Zone" logo.
The proposal anticipates funding from credit card companies, ISPs and Domainz - and the ability for a new industry authority to ask ISPs or Domainz to withdraw the Internet presence of "recalcitrant marketers".
It does not cover Web ads as such - noting that the ASA codes of practice "apply to all media" and that the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB) has already adjudicated on alleged breaches of advertising codes on a Web page.
"However," the paper says. "The ASCB have made it clear that their jurisdiction ends when the item on the Web page is not an advertisement - such as general information, order forms [and] marketing information."
The proposal, which was devised with the help of the Chambers of Commerce and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, has been circulated along with a covering letter from ASA executive director Glen Wiggs, and responses are due back by the end of the month.
Wiggs says self-regulation of e-commerce and Internet marketing is a key issue. "We enjoy precious freedoms to carry on business without undue restriction. With those freedoms come obligations to ensure the consumer is properly protected. If we fail to meet our obligations then we invite governments both here and overseas to do it for us."
The ASA proposal examines different approaches to the difficult issue of cross-boarder advertising and marketing, where content from one jurisdiction is the subject of complaint in another. Unlike the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) the ASA has adopted the "country of reception" (as opposed to "country of origin") model and our ACSB can, subject to various conditions, hear complaints about advertising originating in other countries.
The ASA proposal seems to lean most towards the adoption of a "world model" based on codes and guidelines already developed by the United Nations, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the OECD.
"The important point," the paper says. "Is that international fetters which genuinely protect the consumer are already available in codes developed by internationally reputable organisations, and guidelines being developed by a recognised inter-government forum."
The regime proposed would see the Internet Marketing Standards Authority (or a body of similar name) registered as an incorporated society and adopting ICC and OCED codes. It would establish a complaints board with one member to represent the industry and two members representing the public. It would probably operate out of the ASA offices.
Funding would come from players in the industry, including ISPs, credit card companies, Domainz, large multi-national companies and major Internet advertisers - and, in the longer term from a 'Safe Trading Zone' authentication logo scheme, which could cost Web marketers about $200 a year to display.
The ASA's existing self-regulatory model achieves "100% compliance" and does not provide for fines. If an Internet marketer refused to remedy a breach of the proposed codes, the host ISP and Domainz would be approached "to withdraw the Website".
The paper says the issue of jurisdiction will be eased by international co-operation.
Describing the proposal as a "small beginning," Wiggs says it may lay the ground for adoption of other ICC codes on distance selling, including quality of goods, refunds and fulfillment.