The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (‘ASAS’), which was set up in 1976 to inter alia promote ethical advertising in Singapore, has played a crucial role over the years. Its importance and significance, as the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry, have increased manifold in the past few years. The ASAS has also been pro-actively engaging with stakeholders for feedback. In this regard the ASAS received a total of 359 instances of feedback in 2019. This is a significant increase from previous years, and could perhaps be attributed to the ramped-up public awareness outreach efforts by the ASAS.

The said feedback has been in relation to a wide range of subject matter and areas of potential concern, for example:

31 instances of feedback were received on advertisements under the ‘finance’ category in 2019, pertaining mainly to remittance services and companies that offer investment opportunities. By way of an illustration, a consumer questioned a claim by a remittance business to have ‘no sneaky charges’ after SWIFT fees were applied on his transaction. The remittance business explained that as the transaction involved US dollars in a country where it is not the local currency, the local banks would impose SWIFT fees that were outside of the remittance business’s control. The remittance business complied with ASAS’s advice to include a warning to consumers to check with recipients if their banks charged additional fees during the remittance process.

A lot of feedback was received in relation to the use of ‘brownface’ in a NETS E-Pay advertisement, which was eventually taken down. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (‘IMDA’) issued a warning to the parties concerned. Advertisers were reminded to be mindful of racial sensitivities and not cause offence to ethnic groups when conducting their advertising campaigns.

The ASAS also received a lot of feedback in relation to advertisements by restaurants involving matters such as price and discount discrepancies in advertisements, or a lack of clarity in the description of food and beverage items on menus and in promotional materials or in relation to advertisements pertaining to food delivery apps.

In a continuous effort to encourage stakeholders to work together to ensure ethical advertising, the ASAS reminds advertisers not to overstate the benefits or returns of their products and services, while encouraging consumers to write in in case they come across advertisements which are not legal, decent, honest or truthful.