Government launches Online Advertising Programme consultation

Posted on Wednesday 09 March 2022 | IAB UK

The Government has published its Online Advertising Programme (OAP) consultation, reviewing how digital advertising is regulated in the UK, while also announcing that scam ads will be included in the scope of the Online Safety Bill

Update 27 May 2022: The consultation deadline has been extended until the 8 June


Running for 12 weeks until 1 June 2022, the OAP consultation will review the regulatory framework of paid-for online advertising and consider how it can build on existing and emerging aspects of the self-regulatory framework to, as the Government says, “equip our regulators to meet the challenges of the online sphere”. The proposals are intended to address both ‘illegal and legal harm’s created by online advertising and include measures aimed at advertisers, intermediaries, platforms and publishers.

The launch of the consultation comes as the Government also announces that scam ads - a key focus for the OAP - will be included in the scope of the Online Safety Bill. Read a comment from our CEO Jon Mew: 

“As DCMS launches its consultation on the Online Advertising Programme (OAP) we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the development of a future regulatory framework for digital advertising through an evidence-led process that builds on the strong industry standards and initiatives already in place. 

“Together with government, regulators and law enforcement bodies, the UK digital advertising industry wants to play its part in restricting, detecting and disrupting scam ads. However, the regulatory coherence that we believe the OAP can deliver on this and other issues is undermined by provisions on ‘fraudulent advertising’ being added to the Online Safety Bill (OSB). The decision to duplicate the focus on scam ads across both programmes creates unnecessary regulatory fragmentation and risks constraining proper policy development. 

“To announce legislative changes on the same day as launching such a wide-ranging consultation on the sector undermines the purpose of the OAP and could pre-empt its outcomes. The Government has said that the OAP will aim to holistically review digital ad regulation and consider a range of potential policy responses. Today’s announcement makes that process more difficult.

“We are also concerned that the widened scope of the OSB has not been subject to industry consultation and that it could have unintended consequences for legitimate advertisers - particularly small businesses - if it is applied across the board. 

“The approach set out today seems at odds with the principles set out in the Government’s Plan for Digital Regulation, which emphasises the importance of drawing on industry expertise to develop effective regulation, and of a coherent and streamlined regulatory landscape.“

We look forward to working with our members to coordinate our industry’s consultation response to the OAP. In order to successfully build an effective, proportionate regulatory framework that supplements the existing system of self-regulation, we believe the OAP needs to meet five key principles. Find these here. We are now digesting the details of the consultation and will provide more information to members shortly about the proposals and their potential impact.

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