Ads by finance sector most complained about, says ASAS

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) has received a total of 359 instances of feedback in 2019, as opposed to recording 218 feedback in 2018. According to ASAS, the rise is partly attributable to an increase in advertisement feedback from the finance, restaurant and beauty sectors, as well as its public awareness outreach efforts.

According to ASAS, the most complained-about sector with the highest amount of feedback was the finance category with 31. The feedback on finance industry advertisements involved remittance services and companies that offer investment opportunities. In one case, a consumer questioned a remittance business’s claims to have “no sneaky charges” after SWIFT fees were deducted from their transaction. ASAS reported that the advertiser said that as the transaction involved US dollars in a country where it is not the local currency, the local banks would implement SWIFT fees that were outside of the remittance business’s control. The advertiser then complied with ASAS’s advice to include a warning to consumers to check with recipients if their banks charged additional fees during the remittance process.

Meanwhile, there were also several feedback concerning the use of “brownface” in a NETS EPay advertisement. The ad which got the netizens' attention last year in July, was criticised and taken down. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) later assessed the ad and confirmed it did not breach the Internet Code of Practice. However, an IMDA spokesperson told Marketing previously that the ad was done in "poor taste" and had caused offence to minority communities. Advertisers were later reminded by ASAS to be mindful of racial sensitivities and not cause offence to ethnic groups when conducting their advertising campaigns. 

Following close behind the finance sector were advertisements for restaurants which received 30 instances of feedback.

The issues involved matters such as price and discount discrepancies in advertisements, or a lack of clarity in the description of food and beverage items on menus and in promotional materials. Feedback to ASAS was not limited to advertisements placed by restaurants, and also included advertisements through food delivery apps.

Overall for 2019, according to ASAS, the increases in feedback were across most categories, including feedback on advertisements by mobile phone companies. Of the feedback that were investigated and resolved by the end of 2019, 69 were found to have breached the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP). However, it is a lower proportion compared with previous years, and ASAS noted that the proportion of ads in breach of the SCAP is falling and continues a downward trend observed over the last two years.

ASAS said that the downward trend is an encouraging sign that consumers, through its outreach efforts and the high-profile advertising incidents in 2019, are increasingly aware that a channel exists for both consumers and advertisers to provide feedback and work together to ensure ethical advertising. In addition, the ad council encourages consumers to continue to write in if they encounter advertisements that are not legal, decent, honest or truthful. Advertisers are also reminded not to overstate the benefits or returns that consumers could expect from using their services, and to ensure that they are capable of substantiation. 

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