OK, a bit of poetic license there: the [W:Ides of March] is March 15, whereas the important date is March 1, 2011.

What’s the big deal about March 1, 2011, you ask? It’s the date on which the [W:Advertising Standards Authority] extends its remit to claims made by companies on their own websites.

At present, a company is free to publish any old nonsense it likes on the web. It can repeat claims that it is no longer allowed to make in print advertisements (BeHIT do this), or that have no basis in fact. The implications are potentially far-reaching. I have said before that TCO and ROI calculations are very often fantasy; after 1 March 2011 your TCO and ROI figures may be challenged, and if you fail to substantiate them or remove them from your website then ASA may take out paid advertisements via Google AdWords or whatever pointing out that you’re lying and you know it.

And rest assured that, just like adverse commentary from the [W:Better Business Bureau], ASA rulings will find their way onto your Wikipedia article and blogs and analyst commentary.

That’s quite a good reason to improve your game.

Of course, given my other obsessions and hobbies, the biggest plus for me is that homeopaths based in the UK will no longer be able to make claims of treatment or cure without substantiating evidence. I suspect that the ASA will be deluged with complaints over these woo-merchants’ websites. I aim to do what I can to see that happens, in fact.

Mark it in your calendar: March 1, 2011. The day when any company with a UK presence will have to start being that little bit more honest on the web. About time.

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