The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today announced a review of authorisations concerned with advertising standards in Australia.

ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said that the authorisations were granted to the Media Council of Australia by the Trade Practices Tribunal in 1988.

"he authorisations provided for implementation of the Advertising Code of Ethics, and specific codes relating to the advertising of cigarettes, alcohol, therapeutic goods and slimming products.

"Once an advertisement is created it must be accepted by the relevant industry-approval body as being consistent with the codes before it is published or broadcast. If consumers believe advertisements do not meet the codes, they can appeal to the Advertising Standards Council, which was created under the TPT authorisation. The Council will review the advertisement and advise the Media Council of Australia of its decision for any enforcement action.

"The ACCC believes that since authorisation was granted, circumstances appear to have changed in regard to:

  • the responsiveness of the codes to changes in community needs;
  • mechanisms for enforcement of the codes. These mechanisms are not considered adequate to ensure compliance with the codes causing a diminution in confidence in the integrity of the 'codes system';
  • diminished confidence in the integrity of the codes system which has led some parties to attempt to circumvent/amend the codes;
  • public representation on the Advertising Standards Council which no longer appears adequate to reflect prevailing community views; and
  • amendments to the arrangements for funding the Advertising Standards Council which have eroded the commitment of the founding organisations and thus support for the advertising codes.

"These changes appear to have increased the anti-competitive effects associated with the operation of the code system and diminished the benefit to the public that it offers," Professor Fels said. "These changes will be examined in a review of the authorisations."

The review follows the recent upholding by the Australian Competition Tribunal of the ACCC's decision to revoke the authorisation of the advertising accreditation system of the Media Council of Australia.