Online ad complaints up by a third

Claims made by advertisers themselves - such as those in Tiscali's 'unlimited broadband' offers - are considered to be editorial content and are not covered by the ASA's code of conduct

Complaints about adverts on UK websites rose by a third last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has announced.

ASA found that internet advertising was the second most complained about non-broadcast format in 2006, after national press adverts. The watchdog is calling for tighter regulation of advertising campaigns online.

The main problem lies in how adverts are classified. Claims made on advertisers' websites are exempt from ASA's code of conduct as they are considered to be editorial content. This is a major issue in the ' unlimited broadband ' debate.

"The boundaries of regulatory responsibility online are still unclear. Consumers expect the same levels of honesty and truthfulness online as they do in more traditional advertising media," said ASA chairman Lord Borrie.

More than 2,000 complaints about web-based advertising were lodged with the ASA last year, it said in its annual report . For the first time, online advertising complaints overtook the number of complaints about direct mail.

Television commercials are still the most complained about type of advertising, generating 38 per cent of complaints at ASA.