Consolidated ICC code


The Consolidated ICC Code is to be interpreted in the spirit as well as to the letter.
It applies to marketing communications in their entirety, including all words and numbers (spoken and written), visual treatments, music and sound effects, and material originating from other sources.  Read more

Article 1 – Basic principles

All marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

All marketing communications should be prepared with a due sense of social and professional responsibility and should conform to the principles of fair competition, as generally accepted in business.

No communication should be such as to impair public confidence in marketing.


Article 2 – Decency

Marketing communications should not contain statements or audio or visual treatments which offend standards of decency currently prevailing in the country and culture concerned.


Article 3 – Honesty

Marketing communications should be so framed as not to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge.

Relevant factors likely to affect consumers’ decisions should be communicated in such a way and at such a time that consumers can take them into account.


Article 4 – Social responsibility

Marketing communications should respect human dignity and should not incite or condone any form of discrimination, including that based upon race, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Marketing communications should not without justifiable reason play on fear or exploit misfortune or suffering.

Marketing communications should not appear to condone or incite violent, unlawful or anti-social behaviour.

Marketing communications should not play on superstition.


Article 5 – Truthfulness

Marketing communications should be truthful and not misleading.

Marketing communications should not contain any statement, claim or audio or visual treatment which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggeration, is likely to mislead the consumer, in particular, but not exclusively, with regard to:

  • characteristics of the product which are material, i.e. likely to influence the consumer’s choice, such as: nature, composition, method and date of manufacture, range of use, efficiency and performance, quantity, commercial or geographical origin or environmental impact;
  • the value of the product and the total price to be paid by the consumer;
  • terms for delivery, exchange, return, repair and maintenance;
  • terms of guarantee;
  • copyright and industrial property rights such as patents, trade marks, designs and models and trade names;
  • compliance with standards;
  • official recognition or approval, awards such as medals, prizes and diplomas;
  • the extent of benefits for charitable causes.


Article 6 – Use of technical/scientific data and terminology

Marketing communications should not

  • misuse technical data, e.g. research results or quotations from technical and scientific publications;
  • present statistics in such a way as to exaggerate the validity of a product claim;
  • use scientific terminology or vocabulary in such a way as falsely to suggest that a product claim has scientific validity.


Article 7 – Use of “free” and “guarantee”

The term "free", e.g. “free gift” or “free offer”, should be used only

  • where the offer involves no obligation whatsoever; or
  • where the only obligation is to pay shipping and handling charges which should not exceed the cost estimated to be incurred by the marketer, or
  • in conjunction with the purchase of another product, provided the price of that product has not been increased to cover all or part of the cost of the offer.

Marketing communications should not state or imply that a “guarantee”, “warranty” or other expression having substantially the same meaning, offers the consumer rights additional to those provided by law when it does not.
The terms of any guarantee or warranty, including the name and address of the guarantor, should be easily available to the consumer and limitations on consumer rights or remedies, where permitted by law, should be clear and conspicuous.


Article 8 –Substantiation

Descriptions, claims or illustrations relating to verifiable facts in marketing communications should be capable of substantiation. Such substantiation should be available so that evidence can be produced without delay and upon request to the self-regulatory organisations responsible for the implementation of the Code.


Article 9 – Identification

Marketing communications should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever their form and whatever the medium used.
When an advertisement appears in a medium containing news or editorial matter, it should be so presented that it is readily recognisable as an advertisement and the identity of the advertiser should be apparent (see also article 10).

Marketing communications should not misrepresent their true commercial purpose. Hence a communication promoting the sale of a product should not be disguised as for example market research, consumer surveys, user-generated content, private blogs or independent reviews.


Article 10 – Identity

The identity of the marketer should be apparent.
Marketing communications should, where appropriate, include contact information to enable the consumer to get in touch with the marketer without difficulty.

The above does not apply to communications with the sole purpose of attracting attention to communication activities to follow (e.g. so-called “teaser advertisements”).


Article 11 – Comparisons

Marketing communications containing comparisons should be so designed that the comparison is not likely to mislead, and should comply with the principles of fair competition. Points of comparison should be based on facts which can be substantiated and should not be unfairly selected.


Article 12 – Denigration

Marketing communications should not denigrate any person or group of persons, firm, organisation, industrial or commercial activity, profession or product, or seek to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule.


Article 13 – Testimonials

Marketing communications should not contain or refer to any testimonial, endorsement or supportive documentation unless it is genuine, verifiable and relevant.
Testimonials or endorsements which have become obsolete or misleading through passage of time should not be used.


Article 14 – Portrayal or imitation of persons and references to personal property

Marketing communications should not portray or refer to any persons, whether in a private or a public capacity, unless prior permission has been obtained; nor should marketing communications without prior permission depict or refer to any person’s property in a way likely to convey the impression of a personal endorsement of the product or organisation involved.


Article 15 – Exploitation of goodwill

Marketing communications should not make unjustifiable use of the name, initials, logo and/or trademarks of another firm, company or institution.
Marketing communications should not in any way take undue advantage of another firm’s, individual’s or institution’s goodwill in its name, brands or other intellectual property, or take advantage of the goodwill earned by other marketing campaigns without prior consent.


Article 16 – Imitation

Marketing communications should not imitate those of another marketer in any way likely to mislead or confuse the consumer, for example through the general layout, text, slogan, visual treatment, music or sound effects.

Where a marketer has established a distinctive marketing communications campaign in one or more countries, other marketers should not imitate that campaign in other countries where the marketer who originated the campaign may operate, thereby preventing the extension of the campaign to those countries within a reasonable period of time.


Article 17 – Safety and health

Marketing communications should not, without justification on educational or social grounds, contain any visual portrayal or any description of potentially dangerous practices, or situations which show a disregard for safety or health, as defined by local national standards.
Instructions for use should include appropriate safety warnings and, where necessary, disclaimers.

Children should be shown to be under adult supervision whenever a product or an activity involves a safety risk.

Information provided with the product should include proper directions for use and full instructions covering health and safety aspects whenever necessary.
Such health and safety warnings should be made clear by the use of pictures, text or a combination of both.


Article 18 – Children and young people

Special care should be taken in marketing communications directed to or featuring children or young people. The following provisions apply to marketing communications addressed to children and young people as defined in national laws and regulations relevant to such communications.

  • Such communications should not undermine positive social behaviour, lifestyles and attitudes;
  • Products unsuitable for children or young people should not be advertised in media targeted to them, and advertisements directed to children or young people should not be inserted in media where the editorial matter is unsuitable for them

Material unsuitable for children should be clearly identified as such.
For rules on data protection relating specifically to children’s personal information see article 19.

Inexperience and credulity
Marketing communications should not exploit inexperience or credulity, with particular regard to the following areas:

1.   When demonstrating a product’s performance and use, marketing communications should not

  • minimise the degree of skill or understate the age level generally required to assemble or operate products;
  • exaggerate the true size, value, nature, durability and performance of the product;
  • fail to disclose information about the need for additional purchases, such as accessories, or individual items in a collection or series, required to produce the result shown or described.

2.   While the use of fantasy is appropriate for younger as well as older children, it should not make it difficult for them to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

3.   Marketing communications directed to children should be clearly distinguishable to them as such.

Avoidance of harm
Marketing communications should not contain any statement or visual treatment that could have the effect of harming children or young people mentally, morally or physically. Children and young people should not be portrayed in unsafe situations or engaging in actions harmful to themselves or others, or be encouraged to engage in potentially hazardous activities or behaviour.

Social values
Marketing communications should not suggest that possession or use of the promoted product will give a child or young person physical, psychological or social advantages over other children or young people, or that not possessing the product will have the opposite effect.

Marketing communications should not undermine the authority, responsibility, judgment or tastes of parents, having regard to relevant social and cultural values.

Marketing communications should not include any direct appeal to children and young people to persuade their parents or other adults to buy products for them.

Prices should not be presented in such a way as to lead children and young people to an unrealistic perception of the cost or value of the product, for example by minimising them. Marketing communications should not imply that the product being promoted is immediately within the reach of every family budget.

Marketing communications which invite children and young people to contact themarketer should encourage them to obtain the permission of a parent or other appropriate adult if any cost, including that of a communication, is involved

For other specific rules on marketing communications with regard to children:

  • in the digital interactive media see chapter D, article D5;
  • within the context of food and non-alcoholic beverages see the ICC Framework for responsible food and beverage marketing communication.


Article 19 – Data protection and privacy

When collecting personal data from individuals, care should be taken to respect and protect their privacy by complying with relevant rules and regulations.

Collection of data and notice
When personal information is collected from consumers, it is essential to ensure that the individuals concerned are aware of the purpose of the collection and of any intention to transfer the data to a third party for that third party’s marketing purposes. (Third parties do not include agents or others who provide technical or operational support to the marketer and who do not use or disclose personal information for any other purpose). It is best to inform the individual at the time of collection; when it is not possible to do so this should be done as soon as possible thereafter.

Use of data
Personal data collected in accordance with this code should be

  • collected for specified and legitimate purposes and not used in any mannerincompatible with those purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which they are collected and/or further processed;
  • accurate and kept up to date;
  • preserved for no longer than is required for the purpose for which the data were collected or further processed.

Security of processing
Adequate security measures should be in place, having regard to the sensitivity of the information,in order to prevent unauthorised access to, or disclosure of, the personal data.
If the information is transferred to third parties, it should be established that they employ at least an equivalent level of security measures.

Children’s personal information
When personal information is collected from individuals known or reasonably believed to be children 12 and younger, guidance should be provided to parents or legal guardians about protecting children’s privacy if feasible.

Children should be encouraged to obtain a parent’s or other appropriate adult’s permission before providing information via digital interactive media, and reasonable steps should be taken to check that such permission has been given.

Only as much personal information should be collected as is necessary to enable the child to engage in the featured activity.

Data collected from children should not be used to address marketing communications to the children’s parents or other family members without the consent of the parent.

Identifiable personal information about individuals known to be children should only be disclosed to third parties after obtaining consent from a parent or legal guardian or where disclosure is authorised by law. (Third parties do not include agents or others who provide technical or operational support to the marketer and who do not use or disclose children’s personal information for any other purpose.)

Additional rules specific to marketing communications to children using digital interactive media can be found in chapter D, article D5.

Privacy policy
Those who collect data in connection with marketing communication activities should have a privacy policy, the terms of which should be readily available to consumers, and should provide a clear statement if any collection or processing of data is taking place,whether it is self-evident or not.

In jurisdictions where no privacy legislation currently exists, it is recommended that privacy principles such as those of the ICC Privacy Toolkit (available from ICCwebsite) are adopted and implemented.

Rights of the consumer
Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that consumers understand and exercise their rights

  • to opt out of marketing lists (including the right to sign on to general preference (services);
  • to require that their data are not made available to third parties for their marketing purposes; and
  • to rectify incorrect data which are held about them.

Where a consumer has expressed a wish not to receive marketing communications using a specific medium, whether via a preference service or by other means, this wish should be respected. Additional rules specific to the use of the digital interactive media and consumer rights are to be found in chapter D.

Cross-border transactions
Particular care should be taken to maintain the data protection rights of the consumerwhen personal data are transferred from the country in which they are collected to another country.
When data processing is conducted in another country, all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that adequate security measures are in place and that the data protection principles set out in this code are respected. The use of the ICC model clauses covering agreements between the originator of the marketing list and the processor or user in
another country is recommended (available from ICCwebsite)


Article 20 – Transparency on cost of communication

Where the cost to consumers of accessing a message or communicating with the marketer is higher than the standard cost of postage or telecommunications, e.g. “premium rate” for an online message, connection or telephone number, this cost should be made clear to consumers, expressed either as “cost per minute” or as “cost per message”.

When this information is provided on-line, consumers should be clearly informed at the time when they are about to access the message or online service, and be allowed a reasonable period of time to disconnect without incurring the charge.
Where a communication involves such a cost, the consumer should not be kept waiting for an unreasonably long time in order to achieve the purpose of the communication and calls should not be charged until the consumer can begin to fulfil that purpose.


Article 21 – Unsolicited products and undisclosed costs

Marketing communications associated with the practice of sending unsolicited products to consumers who are then asked for payment (inertia selling), including statements or suggestions that recipients are required to accept and pay for such products, should be avoided.

Marketing communications which solicit a response constituting an order for which payment will be required (e.g. an entry in a publication) should make this unambiguously clear.
Marketing communications soliciting orders should not be presented in a form which might be mistaken for an invoice, or otherwise falsely suggest that payment is due.

For specific rules on unsolicited individually addressed digital marketing communications, see chapter D, article D4.


Article 22 – Environmental behaviour

Marketing communications should not appear to condone or encourage actions which contravene the law, self-regulatory codes or generally accepted standards of environmentally responsible behaviour.
They should respect the principles set out in chapter E, Environmental Claims in Marketing Communications.


Article 23 – Responsibility

These general rules on responsibility apply to all forms of marketing communications. Rules on responsibility with special relevance to certain activities or media can be found in the chapters devoted to those activities and media.

Responsibility for the observance of the rules of conduct laid down in the Code rests with the marketer whose products are the subject of the marketing communications, with the communications practitioner or agency, and with the publisher, media owner or contractor.

Marketers have overall responsibility for the marketing communications of their products.

Agencies or other practitioners should exercise due care and diligence in the preparation of marketing communications and should operate in such a way as to enable marketers to fulfil their responsibilities.

Publishers, media owners or contractors, who publish, transmit, deliver or distribute marketing communications, should exercise due care in the acceptance of them and their presentation to the public.

Individuals employed by a firm, company or institution falling into any of the above categories and who take part in the planning, creation, publication or transmission of a marketing communication are responsible, to an extent commensurate with their respective positions, for ensuring that the rules of the Code are observed and should act accordingly.

The Code applies to the marketing communication in its entire content and form, including testimonials and statements, and audio or visual material originating from other sources. The fact that the content or form of a marketing communication may originate wholly or in part from other sources does not justify non-observance of the Code rules.


Article 24 – Effect of subsequent redress for contravention

Subsequent correction and/or appropriate redress for a contravention of the Code, by the party responsible, is desirable but does not excuse the contravention.


Article 25 – Implementation

The Code and the principles enshrined in it, should be adopted and implemented, nationally and internationally, by the relevant local, national or regional self-regulatory bodies. The Code should also be applied, where appropriate, by all organisations, companies and individuals involved and at all stages in the marketing communication process.

Marketers, communications practitioners or advertising agencies, publishers, media-owners and contractors should be familiar with the Code and with other relevant local self-regulatory guidelines on advertising and other marketing communications, and should familiarise themselves with decisions taken by the appropriate self-regulatory body.
They should ensure an appropriate means exists for consumers to make a complaint and that consumers can readily be aware of it and use it easily.

Further details regarding implementation of the Code by companies and other bodies can be found in the Implementation Guide for the ICC Marketing Codes.

Requests for interpretation of the principles contained in this code may be submitted to the ICC Code Interpretation Panel.


Article 26 – Respect for self-regulatory decisions

No marketer, communications practitioner or advertising agency, publisher, media owner or contractor should be party to the publication or distribution of an advertisement or other marketing communication which has been found unacceptable by the relevant self-regulatory body.

All parties are encouraged to include in their contracts and other agreements pertaining to advertising and other marketing communication, a statement committing the signatories to adhere to the applicable self-regulatory rules and to respect decisions and rulings made by the appropriate self-regulatory body.

Where no effective self-regulatory codes and arrangements are in place in a particular country, all parties are encouraged to include in their contracts and other agreements pertaining to advertising and marketing communication a statement committing the signatories to respect the current Consolidated ICC Code.


Terms specific to the general provisions

For the purposes of this code:

  • the term “advertising” or “advertisement” means any form of marketing communications carried by the media, usually in return for payment or other valuable consideration;
  • the term “consumer” means any person who can reasonably be expected to be affected by a marketing communications, whether as an individual or as a trade customer or user;
  • the term “digital interactive media” refers to any media platform, service or application providing electronic communications, using the Internet, online services, and/or electronic and communication networks, including mobile phone, personal digital assistant and interactive game consoles which allows the receiving party to interact with the platform, service or application;
  • the term “marketing communications" includes advertising as well as other techniques, such as promotions, sponsorships and direct marketing, and should be interpreted broadly to mean any communications produced directly by or on behalf of marketers intended primarily to promote products or to influence consumer behaviour;
  • the term “market research”, which includes social and opinion research, is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organisations using the statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision-making. The identity of respondents will not be revealed to the user of the information without explicit consent and no sales approach will be made to them as a direct result of their having provided information;
  • the term ‘marketer’ refers to persons or companies, including advertisers, sales promoters and direct marketers, who or on whose behalf marketing communications are published or disseminated for the purpose of promoting their products or influencing consumer behaviour
  • the term “offer” means any presentation or solicitation for the sale or purchase of products;
  • the term “personal data” means any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual;
  • the term “preference service” ("Robinson List") means the administration and operation of a suppression file of consumers who have registered a wish not to receive unsolicited direct marketing communications using a specific medium, against which marketing lists are matched;
  • the term "product" refers to anything that constitutes the subject of an advertisement; this usually means goods or services, but is not restrictive: where appropriate the Code may be applied more widely, e.g. to concepts.

Scope of the Code

The Consolidated ICC Code applies to all advertising and other marketing communications for the promotion of any kind of goods and services, corporate and institutional promotion included.

Its standards of ethical conduct should be observed by everyone concerned with marketing communications, whether as advertisers, marketers, advertising practitioners or agencies, in the media, or in related functions. Implementation of the Code will vary depending on individual circumstances: it may be applied by self-regulatory organisations setup for the purpose, as well as by individual companies, agencies, media, etc.

The Code is to be applied against the background of whatever legislation maybe applicable.
When applied in different countries or specific markets, ICC global codes enhance harmonization and coherence, yet they are flexible enough to accommodate variations in culture and societal rules and norms. Where legislation and regulation are not consistent across borders, the Code defers to local rules. For example, since the definition of the term “child” or “young person” varies widely, the provisions outlined in this code that apply to marketing communications addressed to children and young people recommend the use of local definitions. An exception is in the field of privacy where there is general consensus on the age at which rules relating to “children” apply. Hence, for the purpose of all privacy-related sections, including sections on online behavioural advertising, and in the absence of relevant local regulatory or self-regulatory definitions, the Consolidated ICC Code refers to "children" as 12 and under.

Responsible advertising and marketing communications

Advertising and other forms of marketing communications are vital means of communicating between marketers and customers. They help to create efficient markets, both nationally and internationally, and bring significant benefits for both consumers and companies, as well as for society in general.

Responsible advertising and marketing communications, based on widely supported selfregulatory codes of conduct, are an expression of the business community’s recognition of its social obligations. The fundamental value of self-regulation lies in its ability to create, enhance and preserve consumer trust and confidence in the business communities behind it, and thereby in the marketplace itself. Effective self-regulation is also an instrument for the protection of individual companies’ goodwill and reputation.

Self-regulatory codes continue to be developed and refined in response to societal, technological and economic changes.
Independent systems of self-regulation have been successfully applying the ICC Code for the past 70 years. The use of properly implemented advertising and marketing communications codes is acknowledged and accepted in all major markets(cf example below) as industry best practice and a recognized means of providing additional consumer protection. Selfregulation is a tried and tested system which has served responsible business well, for the benefit of consumers all over the world.

see for example:
“1) the Case study report on Advertising of the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL ) Project on Constitutional Foundations of Transnational Private Regulation Coordinated by Fabrizio Cafaggi European University Institute, Florence, Italy,
University of Trento with Colin Scott, University College Dublin, Ireland & Linda Senden Tilburg University, The Netherlands” and
2) the EU Commission DGSanco report 2006, Self-Regulation in the EU Advertising Sector

Purpose of the Code

The Consolidated ICC Code product is intended primarily as an instrument of self-regulation for commercial communications; however, its provisions may also be useful in regulating other, non-commercial forms of
advertising and communication and it may be used by the Courts as a document within the framework of applicable legislation. ICC recommends its adoption and use worldwide.

The Code is intended to achieve the following objectives:

  • to demonstrate responsibility and good practice in advertising and marketing communications across the world;
  • to enhance overall public confidence in marketing communications; to respect privacy and consumerpreferences; to ensure special responsibility as regards marketing communications and children/young people;
  • to safeguard the freedom of expression of those engaged in marketing communications (as embodiedin article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights);
  • to provide effective practical and flexible solutions; to minimise the need for detailed governmental and/orinter-governmental legislation or regulations.

Structure of the Code

The Consolidated ICC Code is constructed as an integrated system of ethical rules.
Its General Provisions and Definitions apply without exception to all marketing communications; they should be read in conjunction with the more detailed provisions and specific requirements set out in the relevant chapters:

  • Chapter A –Sales Promotion;
  • Chapter B –Sponsorship;
  • Chapter C –Direct Marketing;
  • Chapter D –Advertising and Marketing Using Digital Interactive Media;
  • Chapter E –Environmental Claims in Marketing Communications.

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