Douglas Scott - probably the best legal recruiters in the world

Posted in Blog on 16 Feb 2012

A bold statement certainly, but one that we genuinely believe. As, we hope, do our loyal candidates and clients.

We could claim this on our website, as could many other recruiters.

In fact we've taken the opportunity to post this online today whilst we're still allowed to. Since from March 1st, the UK Advertising Standards Agency's (ASA) remit is to be expanded, allowing them to investigate potentially false, incorrect or misleading online marketing and advertising messages.

Which could mean some fundamental changes to online advertising and marketing.

Online overtook press advertising in terms of value in the mid 2000's, and in 2009 overtook TV to become the most valuable form of advertising in the UK. Earlier posts on the Douglas Scott blog have highlighted how the use of social media in recruitment is still very much in its infancy yet what cannot be denied is that online advertising is very much a mature marketing channel within our sector. From company websites to job boards to specialist industry community forums - recruiters have derived great benefits from online platforms.

These changes to the ASA's remit will have a huge effect on our sector. We believe there are 3 main areas to consider:

1. Company websites: Recruitment consultancies are not alone in this respect insofar as every company will now have to review the copy on their website to ensure the messaging is accurate.

2. Job posts on 3rd party websites: Recruitment consultancies have always had to adhere to various items of legislation to ensure their advertising complies with age, sex and other discrimination acts. However with these new ASA rules, the actual description of the job as advertised falls under scrutiny. Candidates could register a complaint should they discover a position has not been accurately described through the job advertisement. Similarly, a client could register a complaint if they discover recruiters are not accurately describing the positions they are offering.

3. Social Media: The way the new rules cover social media is less clear cut. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn?all these platforms and more would in theory fall under the new rules. However the question of ownership and context will make the boundaries a lot more blurred. An individual consultant's LinkedIn profile where they suggest they cover a sector that they don't could be considered misleading advertising. But if that profile is registered to the individual consultant, to a private email address, does that represent a company viewpoint?

To gain a deeper insight into what these changes could mean practically, we spoke to Steve Kuncewicz, Digital Media Lawyer at HBJ Gateley Wareing in Manchester, who agreed that the changes could have a significant impact once the new rules are introduced and the first few test cases make their way before the adjudicators:

"Online advertising is big business. Previous figures from the ASA suggest that the public have been making a steadily-increasing number of complaints against websites which the ASA would not previously have been able to deal with, but all that is about to change.

Sanctions the ASA currently impose include asking for (rather than forcing) the withdrawal of an advertisement or upholding a complaint by adjudication and then publishing the decision. The new sanctions available under the ASA's digital remit have more teeth and will reach a much wider audience than tend to read their adjudications - if a "marketing communication" on a website falls foul of the ASA's CAP Code, then they can be subject to an enhanced "name and shame" policy on the ASA website (which may well show up at the higher end of search results when published and generate negative publicity), potential removal of paid search advertisements that link to the advertisement in question (affecting SEO strategy and general visibility) and an appearance in the ASA's own paid-for advertisements on search engines to further "name and shame" serial offenders.


Social network comments can also be covered, even if made by private individuals, if the business in question then adopts them as a "marketing communication", although the average positive comment quoted on a homepage will usually not fall under the new rules.

From the recruitment industry perspective, there are very specific risks here - mainly for those who post generic details of a position that doesn't actually exist, or from rival businesses who take issue with an advertisement and contact the ASA to have it removed. Social media may well expose recruiters to a huge new pool of candidates, but thanks to the new rules they may also be exposed to a much larger number of complaints. Job Adverts should now be drafted with an eye towards ASA guidelines - complaints to the ASA are sometimes harder to dismiss than the member of staff who posted the advertisement."

At Douglas Scott, our company website and recruitment advertising has always been subject to strict review before approval, and this will continue to be the case. Our company owned social media profiles are tightly controlled and only reflect official company views when stated. All our consultants have been briefed and understand the new rules with regards to their personal online presence. As with any new legislation there is likely to be a period of adjustment. The first test cases will prove a strong indicator on how the rules will be interpreted, and we look forward to observing further developments from March onwards.

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