From today, March 1, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) gets powers to police companies’ claims made on websites and social networks.
The new rules cover statements made on sites that can be interpreted as marketing, even if they are not specifically in an advert.
Prior to today, the ASA had previously only been able to oversee paid-for ads on the web.
Since 2008, the watchdog received over 4,500 complaints in regards to text on websites, but they were unable to do anything about it.
The ASA will use these powers to help it tackle the growing number of complaints about the way companies sell themselves online.
The extension of this UK advertising code, bringing in non paid-for statements, means that these advertisements must not harm, mislead or offend, the same way as paid-for adverts have been monitored.
This has primarily been aimed at sites using a .co.uk domain suffix, but the ASA has said its powers cover .com sites such as Facebook, provided the space was being used under the control of a UK firm.
These powers do not cover user-generated content, such as comments left by customers on a website. But the ASA has said that such content could be examined if a company adopted it as a way to advertise.
The ASA will work on a name-and-shame policy; exposing firms making unsupportable claims.
In preparation for these new rules, the ASA has expanded its staff numbers by 10% in their complaints and investigations unit.