HFSS advertising may penalise retailers’ social media

The restrictions would come as a blow to retailers who are 'increasingly reliant' on social media platforms

TV and online advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) may unfairly target retailers’ social media in a bid to reduce children’s exposure to HFSS products.

On 3 April, the ACS responded to a government consultation seeking feedback on the legislation to further limit HFSS product advertising with a 9pm TV watershed including all on-demand programme services under UK jurisdiction, and restrictions on paid-for online advertising.

Concerned for local shops, the ACS disagreed with the regulation on the basis that it “does not provide a clear and rational basis for why and how each category has been determined to be in scope of the restrictions”, instead calling for a universal scoring system with a national calculator.

The restrictions would come as a blow to retailers who are “increasingly reliant” on social media platforms for “important low-cost marketing tools to communicate to customers” and compete with larger businesses, the ACS stated in its submission.

Findings show that in May last year, “50% of social media and online searches of ‘convenience stores’ were via Facebook, 33% via Instagram, 37% via Twitter, 13% via Whatsapp, and 12% via TikTok”.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “In other areas of Government policy, a retailer trading under a symbol group is recognised as a small business and this is based on the number of employees in that individual business, rather than the symbol group as a whole but this isn’t the case with these restrictions.

“The inclusion of symbol group operators under a broad umbrella term of a franchise agreement will result in thousands of small convenience stores being unfairly penalised by the restrictions as it will undermine their ability to reach their local customers and trade competitively.”

The restrictions are due to come into effect in October 2025.

Read more HFSS news and advice for retailers


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