“Spending beyond means should not be encouraged.”

Businesses should show they care this Christmas – by being responsible about their seasonal promotions. 

Retailers should be particularly careful about how they push by-now-pay-later credit schemes, warns the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA).

“This year has been tough on everyone financially and at Christmas time in particular consumers can feel enormous pressure to spend and treat others, sometimes beyond their means,” says the advertising watchdog.

“It is, therefore, advertisers’ duty to ensure that their ads are not encouraging excessive spending in an irresponsible manner.”

Never-never deals

When it comes to buy-now-pay-later offers, the ASA says marketing communications must be prepared “with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.” 

The advice applies even when there is no interest or fee charged on phased payments.

Businesses can protect themselves – and their customers – by including clear terms and conditions in advertisements or promotions, or by making them easily accessible. 

Time limited promotions – especially those which use terms such as ‘hurry before they’re sold out’ and ticking clocks – must not be used to mislead consumers into fearing they may miss a bargain, adds the ASA.

Keep the magic 

And finally, there’s a plea not to dash children’s hopes and dreams as they write their list of wishes to Father Christmas…

“Advertisers must ensure that any ads targeting or featuring children are not exploiting their credulity, loyalty, vulnerability, or lack of experience…” says the ASA.

The ASA monitors advertising standards across all industry, investigates complaints and publishes a weekly list of its rulings.