Advertising regulations will be extended to cover retailers’ websites and non paid-for messages on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, from March 1 next year.

The regulations will be policed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which currently only covers adverts in paid-for space and sales promotions, following a consultation by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing the regulations.

Marketing communications on advertisers’ own websites and in other non-paid-for-space that is under their control will be subject to rules covering misleading advertising, social responsibility and protection of children. Journalistic and editorial content will be exempt.

As part of the extension of its powers, the ASA has been given new sanctions to remove non-compliant paid-for search advertising with the agreement of search engines, and it will also be allowed to place its own adverts online highlighting an advertiser’s continued non-compliance.

ASA Chairman Lord Chris Smith said, “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart.

“We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from 1 March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA.”