The advertising complaints process

Any member of the public can make a complaint about any ad on any medium. Just one complaint is enough for Ad Standards to investigate.

Step 1: Making a complaint

Complaints can be submitted using the online complaints form.

To make a complaint, you will need to provide:

  • information about the ad, including where and when you saw it (if we don’t have enough detail to identify the ad we may not be able to proceed)
  • if possible, a photo, video, screenshot or screen recording of the ad
  • a reason why you object to, or were offended by the ad
  • either an email address or postal address so that we can keep you updated on the status of your complaint. We don’t accept anonymous complaints. Our privacy policy provides details about how your personal information is handled.

Step 2: Ad Standards assessment

Ad Standards will assess your complaint and decide whether your concern is covered by the advertising codes we administer.

If your complaint is about an issue we cover, we will let you know that we have raised a case.

We will also let you know if your complaint is not about an issue we cover.

The most common reasons we may not accept a complaint include:

  • the complaint is about an ad that has already been assessed by the Ad Standards Community Panel
  • the complaint is about an issue not covered by the advertising codes
  • the content is not an ad
  • the complaint is about a competitor, in which case you’ll need to lodge a competitor complaint

Step 3: Advertiser notification

If your complaint raises an issue under the advertising codes, the advertiser will be notified. The advertiser will be asked to provide Ad Standards with a response.

Even if the advertiser does not respond, the Community Panel may still assess the ad.

Step 4: Community Panel assessment

The Community Panel meet regularly to consider complaints and make decisions about ads. The Community Panel includes people from a broad range of age groups and backgrounds. They are not affiliated with the advertising industry and do not represent any particular interest group.

In assessing the ad, the Community Panel considers:

  • the content of the ad
  • all relevant provisions in the advertising industry codes
  • the complaint/s
  • the advertiser’s response (if any)
  • any other supporting material relevant to the case.

The Community Panel will consider any issues raised in the formal complaint, but they may also assess an ad against all relevant code provisions.

The Community Panel reaches its decision by way of simple majority.

If the Community Panel decide that there is no breach of the advertising codes, they will dismiss the complaint.

If the Community Panel decide that there is a breach of the advertising codes, they will uphold the complaint.

Step 5: Notice of the outcome

If the complaint is dismissed, the advertiser will be notified. This usually happens within 48 hours of the Community Panel’s decision.

If the complaint is upheld, the advertiser is notified and will be asked to change or remove the ad. They are given 5 days to respond to the decision.

Usually within 10 days of the Community Panel decision, complainants are advised of the outcome and the case report is published.

If the advertiser does not comply with the Community Panel’s decision, Ad Standards may pursue other enforcement options such as contacting the media owner to have the ad removed.

Review process

An independent review process is available to the advertiser and original complainants. Requests for review must be made within 10 business days of the date of the notification of the Community Panel’s decision.

There are costs involved for lodging a request for review, and review requests must meet certain grounds.

Read more about the independent review process here.

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