In collaboration with the Competition Commission, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has announced an amendment for paid-for rankings in advertising listings.
The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) administers the widely-accredited Code of Advertising Practice which regulates the content of South African advertising. The founding members of the ARB are the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA), the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). ARB is dedicated to consumer protection through the self-regulation of advertising.
“On intermediation services, search platforms and any similar digital platforms, where businesses pay for a particular rank position, or a boost in their ranking, on the search results page, this constitutes a form of advertising and must be clearly identifiable to the average user through appropriate labels such as: 12.5.1 ‘Sponsored’, 12.5.2 ‘Promoted’ or 12.5.3 ‘Ad’,”
the ARB statement says.
This clause ensures that consumers will understand that if a listing appears at the top of a search on certain platforms, it is not because it is the “best” but because it is paid for. While this may present some enforcement challenges, it believes this is a step in the right direction and says it will work with the Competition Commission.
“This development is part of a larger enquiry by the Competition Commission. We are pleased that we can work with the ARB to find an immediate protection for consumers exposed to this advertising,”
James Hodge, chief economist and acting deputy commissioner of the Commission, says.
In 2022, the Commission published the Online Intermediary Platform Marketplace Inquiry (OIPMI). The regulator concluded that Google Search plays an important role in directing consumers to different platforms and thereby influencing the competition of platforms. The report recommended that Google label paid results as ads, with borders and shading so that it is visually clear to consumers.