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In the biggest clampdown on PC advertising trickery since the ex-VAT price scam was stamped on, monitors will now be sold clearly stating their visible screen size.

The same goes for TVs.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will no longer accept standard industry practice of giving CRT (cathode ray tube) sizes in adverts, without explaining how much of that the user can actually see.

All PC adverts placed after 1 May will have to comply with this decision.

The move follows the ASA upholding a complaint made against three leading PC manufacturers - Evesham Micros, Time Computers and Tiny Computers - that the way they advertised their monitors was misleading.

The Committee of Advertising Practice, the trade body which draws up the British codes of advertising, has sent a letter to the UK's computer retailers and manufacturers informing them of their new responsibility. The TV is going to get its letter shortly.

A spokesman for the ASA said: "We don't think it's right to say a PC comes with a 19 inch CRT monitor - most consumers won't know what that means."

And there's not get out by burying the explanations in microprint. "Explaining industry practice in small print and footnotes is not prominent enough. It has to say it prominently," said the spokesman.

In the case of Evesham, Time and Tiny, the ASA made the same statement - The Authority told the advertisers to use the visible screen size in future or to explain prominently and next to the monitor size information if the quoted screen size was the CRT size.

All three of them had made the same defence that they were just following standard industry practice.

In Evesham's case the ASA pointed out that if the sizes Evesham gave for TFT screens matched the size of screen viewable by a user, then why couldn't the same apply to CRT displays.

Evesham said it was happy to comply with the ruling. Spokeswoman Carolyn Worth said: "It's not going to make a whole hill of beans to our advertising, except use up a bit more copy space."

She also pointed out that as different monitor manufacturers use different size facia; there was no standard viewable screen size for any standard CRT size. ®

The Committee of Advertising Practice's letter to the computer industry

ADVERTISING OF MONITOR SCREEN SIZES

As you may be aware, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the body that represents advertisers and promoters, their agencies, the media and the trade and professional organisations of the advertising and sales promotion business. It writes and enforces the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion (the Codes) and co-ordinates the activities of its members to achieve the highest degree of compliance with the Codes. The Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA) is the independent body that endorses and administers the Codes.

The ASA recently adjudicated against three advertisements for personal computers in which the monitor sizes described were not the actual visible screen sizes. The advertisers had explained in the small print or linked footnotes, that it was industry standard practice to measure monitors using cathode ray tube (CRT) sizes and that actual viewing areas were up to 1" to 1.2" less. Although the Authority accepted that it was industry practice to describe computer monitors by reference to the size of the CRT, it considered that most readers would interpret the descriptions as corresponding to the visible screen size of the monitors. The advertisers were asked to either quote visible screen sizes in future advertising or explain prominently and alongside the monitor description if the quoted screen size was the CRT size.

Many, but by no means all, companies already state in their advertisements the visible screen size of monitors/televisions. In order to create a level playing field in this area of advertising and to avoid misleading consumers, we are now contacting computer and television retailers and manufacturers who quote monitor/television sizes in their advertisements to advise them of the ASA ruling and ask them to amend their advertising if necessary.

We advise that you either quote the visible screen size (or viewable size) or explain prominently and next to the measurement that the quoted size is the CRT size and not the visible screen size. For example, "19'' CRT monitor (18'' viewable)" would be acceptable, as would "19'' CRT monitor (not viewable size)". "19'' CRT monitor" or "19'' Cathode Ray Tube monitor" on their own are unlikely to be acceptable because consumers might not know either what the CRT (or Cathode Ray Tube) is or, if they do, that it is inevitably larger than the viewable screen size.

Explaining industry practice in small print and linked footnotes is unlikely to be acceptably prominent qualification. This advice applies equally to any other measurements that is not the viewable size but might be interpreted as such.

We are requesting that all advertisers ensure that if they place advertisements on or after the 1 May 2001, these have been amended in view of the above guidance and comply with the recent ASA ruling.

Related Link

The ASA's rulings against Time, Tiny and Evesham

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