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EASA reply to the EC digital paper

18 May 2023

Dear Giuseppe,
We would like to thank you and the Digital Team for having organised the roundtable discussion on "Data Collection, Targeting and Profiling of Consumers" and for enabling all stakeholders to continue discussions with the European Commission on this topic and to submit their views.

We herewith would like to take this opportunity to provide some additional comments to the joint industry letter addressed to Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and submitted to you, by identifying some of the non-privacy aspects of the Commission's digital paper which our work in the field of digital marketing communications already deals with.

As an organisation that is deeply committed to promoting high ethical standards in commercial communications, we would first of all like to stress, that the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) strongly shares the European Commission's objective to preserve consumer trust in the online marketplace. We believe that responsible advertising is crucial to consumer trust and is one of the core elements of a functioning market, just as the recognition of appropriate opportunities for the development of new forms of commercial communication is crucial to digital media and its future viability. It is important to recognise that digital media content services are essentially dependent on revenues from digital advertising and commercial communication whilst the opportunities to generate substantial revenues for the provision of editorial content are low.

There is no doubt that commercial communications online need to comply with the same set of rules as advertising in the traditional "offline" media: that is, they need to be legal, honest, decent and truthful, whilst being clearly recognisable as commercial communications. In order to ensure coherence at European level about the approach of advertising self-regulatory organisations (SROs) in handling complaints on digital advertising, EASA developed in 2008 a Best Practice Guidance on Digital Marketing Communications, which was presented to your services and is currently being adopted by the SROs in EASA membership. The best practice guidelines are the result of intensive discussions held with European media, agency and advertiser associations, and national self-regulatory organisations across the European Union. The European Advertising Standards Alliance and its members also held informal stakeholder consultation sessions with the European Commission and NGOs such as EUROCOOP.

The best practice guidelines cover some of the issues raised in the non-paper of DG SANCO regarding the question of online commercial practices. The guidelines delineate what falls within the remit of self-regulation and what falls outside the remit, and thereby help identify all forms of "commercial" content as opposed to editorial content. Once these guidelines are adopted, local self-regulatory rules would apply not only to display ads, text ads and paid search, but also to online in-game advertising and virals, which have been either generated or endorsed by marketers. Even where a concern is raised about editorial content outside of the remit of self-regulation, the marketer will be, where appropriate, made aware about the concerns of the complainant.

Complaints about misleading or unfair advertising including those which arise from online marketing are already dealt with or will soon be dealt with by the European SROs according to EASA┬┤s Digital Marketing Communications Best Practice. SROs will, as in the past, refer "illegal" practices whenever appropriate to the legal backstop.

With regard to the increased importance of online marketing, EASA is encouraging and supporting its members to implement the best practice as soon as possible; the target is that 80% of the operational EU SROs will implement the recommendations by October 2009.

The enforcement of applicable regulatory and/or self-regulatory standards in the area of data protection lies in most cases outside the remit of the SROs within EASA membership, but we are committed to actively support enhanced contacts between SROs and industry-led initiatives aimed at strengthening further the standards for data protection/privacy in the field of digital marketing communications. As mentioned in the joint industry letter, the digital media and advertising industries in Europe are committed to work together in taking up the challenge and develop sustainable solutions.

Please find attached the EASA digital marketing communication best practice, as well as a leaflet summarising the best practice. Should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Oliver Gray
EASA Director-General


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