Government postpones HFSS online ad ban to 2024

Posted on: Monday 16 May 2022 | IAB UK

In what is a major win for the digital ad industry, the Government has announced that the implementation of the HFSS online ad ban will be delayed by a year until January 2024

The online ad ban for products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) was originally due to come into force from 1 January 2023, but will now be delayed by a year to give the advertising industry longer to prepare for the changes. Pushing for this outcome has been a key part of the IAB’s recent lobbying work, in partnership with other industry bodies such as ISBA, the IPA and the Advertising Association. The postponement will also apply to the 9pm TV watershed for HFSS ads. 

DCMS has said that the postponement is due to a delay in the Health and Care Bill, which implements the ban, receiving Royal assent and ‘a growing recognition that the industry needs more time to prepare’ in order to implement the restrictions smoothly and effectively.

Given the lead time of campaigns, we at the IAB have been arguing that a minimum of a year’s notice is needed to implement the ban once guidance has been published by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)* detailing how to comply with the new law in practice. CAP will not be in a position to issue this guidance until later in 2022. The postponed implementation date will therefore provide the necessary notice for advertisers and their partners to effectively prepare for the new rules. 

Commenting on the development, IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew said: “We’re really pleased that the Government has listened to the very valid concerns of digital advertisers, who want to ensure they are complying with the law, and delayed the implementation date for the HFSS ad ban. We still believe that this tokenistic ban is both a missed opportunity to address the root causes of childhood obesity and to pioneer a digital-first, evidence-led solution to further restricting children’s exposure to HFSS ads. However, in securing a delay to the implementation date, we can now work to ensure that our members have the information they need to be ready for the changes in 2024.” 

In the meantime, the existing strict HFSS rules in the CAP Code apply to all online ads, ensuring that under 16s continue to have limited exposure to these ads.

*assuming that the ASA is appointed as the day-to-day regulator for the restrictions, which is subject to a formal consultation and designation process that will be managed by Ofcom. 

Find out more about what ads will be covered by the ban here

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