Tonight, I received an email from the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) in response to a formal complaint I had lodged against the TAB.
My complaint was with regards to the TAB’s latest advertising campaign likening gambling to shopping and showing shopping bags stuffed full of betting slips.
Unfortunately, the ASB dismissed my complaint. Not because there were no grounds, but because it was “outside their charter”. Apparently you’re allowed to lie and misrepresent yourself in advertising, so long as you don’t use violence or nudity to do it.
The most disappointing thing was the letter the ASB sent me to explain the reasons for their dismissal. It’s clear that they didn’t actually consider my complaint at all.
I have stored a copy of the letter here, with my address removed and some notes in the margins. Feel free to take a look. And here’s my response to their response:
“Thank you for your correspondence regarding the promotion of gambling through television advertising.”
My complaint was NOT concerning television advertising. It was, as the ASB’s own email confirmation to me on October 19 stated :
Advertisement Type: Internet
Advertisement Location: Herald-Sun website
There are three more paragraphs on page 1 regarding television advertising. All of this was irrelevant.
Page 2 starts with a section concerning “the legality of the advertising of a gambling related product and/or service during the coverage of a sporting event or other”. But I know that gambling advertising is legal, and I know that the products the TAB were advertising are legal. My complaint focused on the way they were doing it.
This was not during a sporting event. There was no broadcaster. It was advertising located on a news website. Yet the ASB directed me to contact the broadcaster and/or the controlling body for the sport in question.
Following this, the ASB went into some detail about how “most Australian sports bookmakers are licenced in the Northern Territory (NT)”, and went on to provide links and information about NT codes of practice and who to contact.
But my complaint was about the TAB. And the TAB is licensed in NSW and Victoria… not the Northern Territory.
“You may also wish to raise the issue of whether or not this product/service should be allowed to be advertised, with your local member of Parliament.”
Again: I did not say that the products being advertised by the TAB are illegal, or should be. My complaint was that dangerous practices were being promoted, and that the TAB was wilfully misrepresenting the services they do offer.
And on that point: yes, it seems that because my complaint “also concerns the issue of misleading advertising”, it is “therefore outside the charter of the Advertising Standards Board”.
Think about that. Misleading advertising is outside the charter of a board set up to enforce advertising standards.
And finally, a helpful hint that if the advertisement had offended me (rather than simply misrepresenting gambling as shopping and showing unsafe gambling practices) then they’d have been “happy to proceed with considering my concerns”. I guess I should take offense more easily!
Ultimately, the only useful part of the letter was the suggestion that I take this up with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC), which I now intend to do.
The ASB was a waste of time. Let’s see what the ACCC has to say.
It’s time for round 2.
1/11/2014 – UPDATED TO ADD:
I lodged my formal complaint with the ACCC on the morning of Thursday 30/11/2014. As with the ASB complaint, the ACCC complaint focused on the images seen on the Herald Sun website.
This morning (Saturday 1/11/2014) I lodged a supplementary complaint with the ACCC, covering the same TAB advertising campaign but including the TAB-branded tram that runs along Bourke St in the Melbourne CBD, and the front page of today’s Herald Sun print edition which prominently features the same TAB ad.
Will keep you all posted.