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Λονδίνο, 18 Απριλίου 2016

Η μαζική ανταπόκριση και διαμαρτυρία διάφορων φορέων και οργανώσεων του Η.Β σχετικά με τις παράνομες διαφημίσεις των κατεχόμενων εδαφών μας σε διάφορα σημεία του Λονδίνου δυστυχώς δεν οδήγησαν στα επιθυμητά αποτελέσματα.

Το Μέτωπο Κυπρίων Φοιτητών Ην. Βασιλείου, Το Lobby for Cyprus, η Κυπριακή Ύπατη Αρμοστεία αλλά και διάφοροι άλλοι πολίτες και φοιτητές του Η.Β έστειλαν επιστολή διαμαρτυρίας στην αρμόδια υπηρεσία διαφημίσεων ζητώντας την κατάργηση της εν λόγω διαφήμισης.

Η απάντηση που λάβαμε από την αρμόδια αρχή ήταν αρνητική κάτι που μας ανάγκασε να εφεσιβάλουμε την απόφαση.

Παραθέτουμε αυτούσια την εφετική επιστολή την οποία αποστείλαμε στην αρμόδια αρχή για να προβεί σε αντεξέταση της καταγγελίας μας:

Dear (———–),

I would kindly request an independent review regarding the ruling on “North Cyprus Tourism Centre” advertisements which I received via e-mail on 26/02/2016.

The reasons for my appeal are based on two limbs. The first, is considering certain irrelevant considerations that the ASA Council (ASA) unreasonably followed when reaching its decision, and secondly that the ASA breached consumers’ legitimate expectations when entering its decision.

Relying on irrelevant Considerations

Pursuant to the ‘general principle’ of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing s (Code), “[…] [a]ll marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and should reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code”. This is directly encapsulated under rule 1.2 which notes that“[m]arketing communications must reflect the spirit, not merely the letter”, and rule 1.3 which notes that “[m]arketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society”.

The ASA, when reaching its decision on the matter, noted inter alia, that “[a] significant proportion of consumers who viewed these ads would be unaware of the 1974 conflict, and would be unaware that North Cyprus was not recognised by the international community or by the British government”,  and as such they would not have been misled by the advertisement.  Additionally, the ASA noted that they saw no evidence “that the legal status of the region would materially impede on consumers’ ability to experience this holiday once they were in the region”.

As far as the former consideration is concerned, and given the aforementioned spirit of the code and rules, it is highly unreasonable to consider the fact that a significant proportion of consumers are unaware of an illegal occupation as an argument in favour of dismissing the complaint. Indeed, the fact that the ASA indicates in its decision that the UK government has not legally recognised North Cyprus, should stand all the more of a reason why consumers should also be informed of the contested nature of the region. By not informing the consumers, the ASA falls short of its duties that it has imposed on itself under the Code, and relies on a fallacious consideration to dismiss the complaint.

Secondly, saying that consumers would not be deterred in staying in a region whose legal status is not recognized by the International Community is arguably an affront to common sense and basic levels of morality; it is akin to saying that much like a consumer would not be deterred from entering a region that is illegally occupied, a buyer would not be deterred from renting property after finding out that it may have been stolen.

This is a wholly fallacious reasoning on the part of the ASA and indeed a consideration that should not have led to a dismissal of the complaint; in fact it should have had the opposite result. One would hope that consumers would be more cautious in visiting a region with a contested legal status when informed, despite this not being what the ASA believed when reaching its decision. A precautionary approach should have been taken by the ASA. Instead of lack of evidence acting as reasons to dismiss the complaint, lack of evidence should have acted as a caveat with such advertisements. In taking the opposite approach, the ASA assumes that consumers are morally inert and would not be deterred by a region’s illegality.

It is for these reasons that the ASA relied on wholly unreasonable considerations when reaching its decision. These considerations perpetuate advertisements which are distanced from “a sense of responsibility to consumers and society” as the Code prescribes. Indeed they have the opposite effect, by further obfuscating a sensitive matter, namely the socio-political status quo in Cyprus and consumer ignorance on the matter.

Breach of legitimate expectations

As mentioned above, the spirit of the Code imposes a level of responsibility on advertisers, towards consumers and society as a whole. When the ASA publicised the said Code, it created, at the very least, a legitimate expectation that this spirit would factor in any subsequent decision.

The reasons that the ASA indicated in its decision, namely the ignorance of a significant proportion of the public of the 1974 conflict, and the arguably irrationally held view that finding out about the illegal status of North Cyprus would not deter consumers from visiting the region, fail to grasp the spirit of the Code, and fall short of any form of responsibility towards society. Society should be informed of the possibility that their vacation may, albeit innocently, further encroach on the rights of individuals whose property has been illegally withheld by occupant troops since 1974.

For these reasons, it is in my contention that a breach of procedural legitimate expectations occurred when the ASA failed to consider the spirit of the code and rules 1.2-1.3 above.

General Concerns – Conclusion:

The underlying reason for this appeal is not to create a blanket ban on advertisements of the region of North Cyprus, as indeed case law suggests is irrational. What is in fact sought is a balanced decision that protects the rights of consumers as a whole. For example a caveat could be attached to any such advertising, that any vacation taken in the region must not be situated on illegally held property. By not reaching a mid-point and allowing the unfettered furtherance of the advertisements in question, the ASA in fact takes a stark opposite approach of a blanket ban, by offering such advertisers a de facto blanket immunity.

For these considerations, I ask that you set aside the decision of the ASA, so that the matter may be reconsidered, with a decision being reached that furthers the spirit of the Code, and appeases consumers and advertisers alike.

Γραφείο Τύπου

ΜΕΤΩΠΟ Κυπρίων Φοιτητών Ην. Βασιλείου