The number of complaints about food and beverage advertisements has shot up in 2022, forming 23.4% of the feedback received by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS).
According to ASAS, it received 303 pieces of feedback in 2022, compared with 304 in 2021. Out of that, there was a jump in the proportion of feedback on food and beverage and restaurant advertisements and fewer instances of feedback on advertisements for beauty establishments claims. These saw a 33.3% decrease in feedback as compared with 2021.
ASAS noted that the increase in F&B related advertising complaints "increased in tandem with patronage and reservations" and also with the easing of pandemic restrictions last year.
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With inflation rising in the last two years, complains about the cost of food and shrinking portions have also risen on online news outlets and social media. Of the feedback that ASAS received, 24 pieces of feedback concerned promotions that the complainants said were not honored with 20 regarding food items that did not match the advertisements or menus in appearance, price, quantity or size.
An example is a roast meat chain that stated on its storefront signage at one of its outlets that their platters included rice when they no longer did so. The complainant was informed by staff members that the menu was wrong, and the business acknowledged that they failed to change the signage when they amended its menus and instructed their staff to black out the words “with rice” when ASAS wrote to them.
“Menus often influence a consumer’s decision to purchase food and beverages. Rising costs are not an excuse for businesses to not update their advertisements and point-of-sale materials in a timely fashion and thus misleading consumers," noted ASAS chairman professor Ang Peng Hwa.
Relying solely on employees to communicate changes in availability and prices is not consistent, reliable or acceptable.
It added that consumers who find themselves in this situation should take clear photographs of the advertisement, their receipt, and the food they receive before consumption so that ASAS has sufficient information to follow up on the issue.
When MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out to ASAS, it said that when ASAS receives feedback on an advertisement and determines there is merit to the feedback, it writes to the advertiser to seek their clarification and to obtain any supporting documents for the claims that are featured in the advertisement.
The ASAS Council is then consulted to make an assessment according to the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP). If the advertisement is determined to have breached SCAP, the advertiser is informed to amend or remove it within a strict but reasonable deadline. "As a self-regulatory organisation with stakeholders in the advertising industry, ASAS relies on and often obtains the voluntary compliance of advertisers to uphold the SCAP," said a spokesperson at ASAS.
The news comes shortly after ASAS reported that it received 304 pieces of feedback in 2021, including advertising advice, consumer-to-business complaints, B2B feedback and feedback from government agencies. According to ASAS the number of feedback has reduced compared to 2020, which saw 428 pieces of feedback. According to ASAS, in 2021, "The most complained about advertiser in 2021 was a snack and food kiosk company, for which ASAS received eight complaints over the stall's sexually suggestive marketing materials on social media platform.'
Following ASAS’s engagement, the advertiser agreed to remove the original social media posts in question.
At that point in time, it was also reported by ASAS that out of the list of complaints, food and beverage advertisements had been creeping up with the most number feedback. Over 2021, ASAS received 26 pieces of feedback on food and beverage advertisements, making it the joint-most complained about industry, with restaurants not far behind (23).
Collectively, feedback on restaurants, food and beverages made up 16.1% of all feedback received, compared to 2020 (15.9%) and 2019 (14.1%).
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