UK Advertising Standards Authority Releases New Guidelines for Dating Platforms

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have released new guidelines for online dating service providers.

Under the headline “Swipe right: online dating and the CAP Code”, dating sites are advised to avoid misleading consumers, and to be upfront about their costs.

Platforms should also be specific about who users will be interacting with, particularly on niche sites. The guidelines read: “From vampires to Disney-lovers, fitness fanatics to farmers there are now dating sites that cater for pretty much everyone.

“To this end, advertisers must be careful not to take advantage of those consumers who are searching for people with particular like-minded interests or values, and should not imply that their websites are only open to specific groups or those with niche interests if this is not the case.”

The release gives the example of a service that branded itself as a dating site for single parents, but hosted users from other niches who neither had kids nor expressed the intention of dating anyone who was a single parent. The ASA upheld a complaint against this site.

Claims of popularity can also be controversial if they are unsupported by evidence. One site saying a match could be found “every ten minutes” was found to me misleading to consumers, basing the figure on a biased sample of a certain demographic and paying members only.

Platforms should also avoid making use of “overtly sexual imagery and language in mediums likely to be seen by children”, the guidelines note. An advert with passionate kissing was said to be the right side of the line (despite receiving some complaints), as it was unlikely to cause “serious or widespread offense”.

The Copy Advice team at the Committee of Advertising Practice are able to give free advice to dating sites on advertising policy.

The full guidelines can be found here.

Scott Harvey

Scott is the Editor of Global Dating Insights. Raised in Dorset, he holds a BA from The University of Nottingham and an MSc from Lund University School of Economics and Management. Previously he has written about politics, economics and technology for various online publications.

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