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Children and young people

The Marketing Practices Act contains a very explicit provision on marketing activities targeted to children and young people.

Section 8(1) requires businesses targeting this age group to take special care not to exploit the natural credulity of children and young people, and their lack of experience and critical sense which makes them very susceptible to influence.

This provision means that a violation of any of the other provisions is all the more aggravating when it comes to children and young people. When assessing the infringing aspects of misleading advertising in relation to this age group, it should be taken into consideration that children are more likely to take the commercial message at face-value. Descriptions of products and its size, value, nature, durability and performance must therefore be presented more accurately than in advertising directed at adults.

Another implication of the provision is that businesses and trades are neither allowed to involve children and young people in sales and marketing activities as staff - nor as intermediaries in friend recruitment schemes. To use children as sales staff and intermediaries is to exploit their natural credulity and loyalty. However, children and young people should not be restrained from earning money after school in shops etc. or to participate in conventional sales, marketing and fund raising activities in their local sports club or other associations.

Marketing concepts should not employ means such as unrealistic and distorted beauty or body ideals. The use of such means in commercial communication directed at children and young people is likely to have a very negative influence on their self-confidence and self-respect. Display of sex and sexual undertones must also be avoided. It may affront the natural modesty of these age groups and introduce them to a whole new social world which they are not qualified to navigate.

Section 8(2) makes it an offence to incite violent behaviour, directly or indirectly, or other dangerous or reckless behaviour in marketing activities. The provision also sets out that marketing targeted to this group should not employ means such as fear, violence or superstition in an improper manner.

The provision in subsection 2 is aimed at rooting aggravating and intrusive forms of marketing. Visual marketing media depicting children and young people playing on railway tracks or leaping on a carriage at full speed is not legal. Such depictions could inspire children and young people to do similar or other dangerous things.

Violations of the ban set out in section 8(2) and 8 (3) are punishable by fine unless more severe penalties have been incurred under other legislation. See section 30(3) of the Marketing Practices Act.

The implications of the ban are that alcohol marketing should not be targeted to children and young people. Magazines whose primary target group is children and young people should not contain advertisements featuring alcohol; nor should alcoholic beverages be promoted in connection with children’s films in the cinema. Finally, alcohol should not appear in conjunction with marketing campaigns for other products. Booze is not an acceptable means to boost the sales of e.g. youth travels.

Section 8 of the Marketing Practices Act does not establish an absolute definition regarding age criteria and children and young people. The explanatory notes refer to children and young people as a group of people below 18 years of age. The trader must assess the scope and target group of individual marketing campaigns: commercial communication directed to small children is subject to a different evaluation that advertising targeted at teenagers.

Article 14 of the International Code of Advertising Practices remains a suitable vantage point when determining the scope of the principles of good marketing practices with regard to children.

See our guideline on 'Children, Young People and Marketing Practices'.