Responding to a complaint

So you’ve been notified by Ad Standards that your ad has received a complaint. With any complaint we receive, we aim to provide a fair and thorough process for all involved.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of our process.

Receiving a complaint

When we receive a complaint about an ad, it is assessed against the advertising codes. Many of the complaints we receive don’t raise any problems, and in these cases we’ll respond to the complaint without the need to contact you.

If the complaint raises an issue under the advertising codes, or we need more information about your ad, we will get in touch.

Working with us

We prefer to work with advertisers to resolve complaints informally. For example, we might simply ask for a copy of your ad so that we can assess it against the codes. If we think there is something to be investigated,  we can provide advice or seek agreement that it will be changed or removed. Informally resolved complaints are not put before the Ad Standards Community Panel and a case report or decision is not published.

The investigation

When a formal case is raised, we’ll contact you to explain what the complaint is about, provide a copy of the complaint and ask you to supply the following within 5 business days:

  1. A good quality copy of the ad
  2. A written response to the complaint

In some cases, we might also ask for specific information that will be needed for the Community Panel to make a decision. This includes things like the ClearAds number, ad placement/audience information, nutritional content of food, substantiation of environmental claims.

If we have raised a formal case, but you think the matter can be resolved informally, contact us(link sends e-mail) and we’ll discuss the options with you.

Please note that even if your ad has received ClearAds or CAD approval, Ad Standards will still raise a formal case if we think it raises an issue under the advertising codes.

Writing a response

Advertiser responses should be submitted using the advertiser response form.

Providing a response gives you an opportunity to explain the ad to the Ad Standards Community Panel who make the final decision. You should take a thoughtful and respectful approach when crafting your response as all advertiser responses are published in the case report. For this reason, we also ask that you remove any identifying information that you would not like published.

Our advertising issues page can be a good place to start when writing responses. You can see examples of various advertising issues, and how other advertisers have responded.

Your response should address each section of the relevant advertising code. There is no need to respond to each complaint (if there is more than one).

Your response should focus on the code/s and the issue/s raised. You should address any sections of the code where you think the ad could raise issues, as the Community Panel can consider the ad under any sections of the advertising codes, not just under the issues the complaint has raised.

If you are finding it difficult to prepare a response, it’s always better to contact us than to not respond at all. We’ll be happy to talk it through with you.

The Community Panel assessment

The Community Panel meets regularly to consider cases. Community Panel members discuss their ideas and consider varying points of view, including your response, before coming to a final decision. They will consider:

  • the original complaint/s
  • all relevant advertising material
  • the advertiser’s response
  • all relevant provisions of the codes, and
  • any other relevant supporting material.

The Panel reaches its decision by way of simple majority.

The decision

When the Community Panel considers a complaint, it will make one of two decisions:


A complaint is dismissed if the Community Panel decides there is no breach of any of the advertising codes. When a complaint is dismissed, advertisers are usually notified within a few days of the Community Panel meeting. The decision to dismiss the complaint is reflected in the published case report.


If the Community Panel decides there is a breach of any of the advertising codes, the complaint is upheld. Advertisers are notified of the decision as soon as possible and have 2 days to respond. The written response must confirm that the ad has been, or is being, amended or removed.

The Community Panel’s decision and the case report, incorporating the advertiser’s response to the decision, is provided to complainants and published, a copy of the final case report is also sent to you for your records.


Most advertisers act quickly to amend or remove an ad if it is found in breach of the rules, and we act against the few who do not.

Ultimately if an advertiser doesn’t comply we will:

  • include the advertiser’s failure to respond in the case report
  • forward the case report to media proprietors who may remove the ad
  • if appropriate, refer the case report to the appropriate government agency or industry body.

Can decisions be reviewed?

In certain circumstances, the advertiser or original complainant can request an independent review. Requests for an independent review must be made within 10 business days of the date of the final notification of the Community Panel’s decision and must meet certain criteria. There is also a fee associated with lodging a request for independent review.

If the review request is accepted an Independent Reviewer will either confirm the decision (with no further action) or recommend that the matter be reconsidered by the Community Panel.

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