All online marketing communications are to come under the oversight of the UK's Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), the watchdog has announced.

Under its current remit, the organisation monitors ads in paid-for spaces and sales promotions.

From March 2011, however, its Code of Non-broadcase Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing – including rules on misleading messages, the protection of children and social responsibility – will apply to all internet marketing services.

This includes material that appears on companies' own websites, as well as communications on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Organisations that fail to stick by the authority's rules could have paid ads pulled by the ASA in agreement with the relevant search engine.

Alternatively, the watchdog could take out its own online ads to highlight a particular firm's non-compliance with its code.

The monitoring of internet marketing will be funded by a 0.1 per cent levy of paid-for adverts, supplemented by backing from Google.

ASA chairman Lord Chris Smith said: "We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn't deal with but from March 1st, anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA."

According to Econsultancy, 52 per cent of UK firms intend to increase their spending on pay per click marketing in 2010, while 60 per cent will up their budgets for search engine optimisation.

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