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PC World rapped for ad encouraging illegal use of iPod

Broadcast licence needed to use gadget

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PC World has been admonished by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for advertising a product which is illegal to use in the UK. An advert for an FM transmitter cannot be repeated in the same form, the ASA said.

Short range FM transmitters are smaller, less powerful versions of radio masts which send a signal a distance of a few feet. They are typically used to send music from an MP3 player or CD player to a radio, most commonly in a car.

In the UK anyone transmitting FM signals needs a broadcast licence, and the use of transmitters is illegal. Though the law will change in December to permit the use of transmitters, they remain illegal.

PC World published a newspaper advert which included the text "IPOD IN YOUR CAR!...JUST ARRIVED". Complaints were made that the advert was irresponsible because it encouraged the public to break the law.

PC World argued that it wanted to give the public the chance to use the product abroad ahead of its legalisation in the UK. It said it did notify consumers in the ad that use of transmitters was illegal here.

The ASA said putting that disclaimer in the small print of the advert was not adequate action to protect consumers against breaking the law.

"We considered that that was a significant condition and that referring to it only in the small print was likely to mislead consumers because small print was not prominent enough to make clear an important condition of that kind. As the condition that a license was required was not prominent enough, we considered that the ad could encourage the public to break the law and was irresponsible," said the ASA's ruling.

"We told PC World to state prominently in future ads the requirement to obtain a broadcasting license for the product and the fact that broadcasting licenses were not normally available to consumers," it said.

Communications regulator Ofcom consulted over the summer on whether or not to change the law regarding transmitters. The body has the power to change the regulations attached to the Wireless Telegraphy Act without the change going through Parliament.

"We are finalising the draft regulations and we hope that it will be put into effect to make them legal in early December," said an Ofcom spokeswoman.

See: The ASA ruling

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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