7. Complaint handling
See below the summary of the procedure according to the Regulation (2).
I. Admissibility criteria
After a complaint is submitted, this is assessed firstly for admissibility. This includes checking that the name and address are correct (anonymous complaints will not be considered) and whether the complaint is sufficiently substantiated. Adequate documentation should be provided, if possible. These are important requirements because an advertiser must be able to defend itself against the complaint.
II. Chairman’s direct dismissal/setting aside without a defence
Not every admissible complaint is handled by the entire Advertising Code Committee. The chairman of the Committee can set aside a complaint if he feels that
- the Committee will not allow the complaint;
- the complaint should not be handled by the Committee, but pursuant to the procedure for cross-border advertising, should be sent on to another EASA member (see chapter 13).
If a complaint is set aside by the chairman, the complainant is informed to this effect in writing. If the complainant feels that the complaint was wrongly set aside, he can lodge an objection with the entire Advertising Code Committee (see chapter 9).
III. Chairman’s decision after possibility of defence by the advertiser
If the chairman does not use his authority to reject a complaint directly, the advertiser is always asked to provide a written response.
In principle, the advertiser is given 14 days within which to file an objection against the complaint. The defence is always sent to the complainant. Upon receipt of the defence or if the advertiser does not wish to conduct a defence, the chairman may then decide to assess the complaint himself. If that is the case, the chairman may make the following statements:
A. Rejection of the complaint by the chairman
A rejection can occur for the same reasons as mentioned above under II. The complainant may file an objection against the rejection by the plenary Advertising Code Committee (see chapter 9).
B. Upholding of the complaint by the chairman
The chairman may decide that the complaint can be upheld if he considers that the Committee will uphold the complaint and:
- the party against whom the complaint is made has not made use of the opportunity to put forward a written defence;
- the party against whom the complaint is made has acknowledged the complaint or;
- the chairman continues to hold this opinion after receipt of the defence.
The upholding of the complaint takes place in the manner set out in chapter 8. The chairman may not, however, distribute the ruling as an ‘Alert’. If the complaint is upheld by the chairman, the advertiser may object to this decision to the plenary Advertising Code Committee (see chapter 9).
IV. Advertising Code Committee
If the chairman himself does not decide on the case, the plenary Committee will assess the file in a meeting. This takes place after the advertiser has conducted its defence. In some cases, the Committee may provide the parties the opportunity to make further written comments. Documents must always be in the possession of the Committee at least 7 days prior to the meeting. If desired, the complainant and the advertiser can provide their views orally at the meeting. The meetings are public, if one or both parties gives an oral presentation. Either party may make reasoned objections to a public hearing. A request to have the hearing behind closed doors is granted only if there are serious reasons. The chairman of the Committee will decide on such a request. The parties may request that the hearing take place behind closed doors at the hearing at the latest. The Committee may take investigative measures. The deliberations regarding the complaint are not public. The Committee will make its decision in writing and this is sent to the parties (see chapter 8).
V. Urgent matters
If the chairman of the Committee considers that a case is urgent, he may decide that it will be assessed by the Committee within 14 days (article 8 par. 1 Regulation). In this case, there is a shorter appeal period.
VI. Provisions for identical complaints
If a number of complaints of the same nature or scope are submitted regarding a certain advertisement, the chairman may decide that these will not be taken into consideration and that it is sufficient to assess the complaints that can be considered representative of all submitted complaints. The website of ACA can specify which advertisement this regards. Once the Committee has made its decision, this will be published on the website. The complainants whose complaint is not considered separately, will be sent the decision after it has become final.
(2) If the procedures below differ from the Regulation, the text of the Regulation will be considered as the only correct one.