If you advertise in the Netherlands, you must keep to the Dutch Advertising Code (Nederlandse Reclame Code, NRC). This applies to all advertising, regardless of the medium you use. The NRC describes the general rules on advertising and special advertising codes for specific products and services.
General rules on advertising
The Dutch Advertising Code Authority (Stichting Reclame Code) has drawn up the Dutch Advertising Code (NRC). According to these rules advertising cannot:
- be contrary to the law, the truth, good taste, and decency
- go against public interest, public order, or morality
- be unnecessarily hurtful or in violation of public health
- harm trust in advertising
- appeal to fear or superstition
- be unrecognisable as advertising
- be dishonest (for instance misleading and aggressive advertising)
Misleading advertising is forbidden. Advertising is misleading if you make claims which are incorrect, incomplete, or very unclear. For example if you claim a product has a quality mark which it does not have, or if you state that something is free, when it is not. It is also considered misleading if you hide (important) information on your website. You are allowed to exaggerate in your advertisement.
Aggressive advertising is prohibited. Advertising is aggressive if it limits the average consumer's freedom of choice or freedom of action. This pushes the consumer to take a decision they would not otherwise have taken. You cannot use advertising with which you intimidate, force, or (physically) threaten consumers, or advertising with which you abuse your dominant position to exert pressure.
Aggressive advertising is for instance:
- persistent and unwanted solicitation by phone, fax, e-mail, or other remote media
- giving the impression that someone has won a prize or will win a prize by taking an action, while there is no prize or the consumer must pay
- taking advantage of children's gullibility or encourage children to talk their parents into buyin something
Comparative advertising is permitted under specific conditions. Advertising is comparative if your advertisement refers to the competitor's name, product, or service.
Comparative advertising is allowed if:
- it is not misleading
- the products or services you compare have the same purpose
- your comparison is objective, for instance a verifiable characteristic such as the price
- you do not damage your competitor's reputation
- it is clear that you are the advertiser and not your competitor
- you have a special offer, and it is clear when the offer is valid
- you compare products with a designation of origin (for example feta or Parma ham) with equal products
- you do not represent products or services as imitations of or counterfeit (fake) of a protected trademark or protected trade name
Special advertising codes
For a number of products, media, or audiences special advertising codes apply, for instance for:
- online games of chance
- social media and influencer marketing
- advertising aimed at children and youngsters
On the Dutch-language website Check het bij SRC! (Check it with SRC!) you can check if your advertising complies with the Dutch Advertising Code.
No tobacco advertising
You cannot advertise tobacco and smoking products. Only specialist tobacco stores that meet specific conditions and that are registered with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA, in Dutch) are allowed to advertise.
Distribution of unsolicited commercial messages (spam)
You are not permitted to send unsolicited electronic messages by app, e-mail, or SMS (spam). For instance advertising for products and services or a newsletter for charitable purposes.
You can only send advertising if it meets the following 3 conditions:
- the recipient has given their explicit consent
- the recipient must be able to see who is sending the message.
- the recipient must always be able to easily and freely 'opt out' of receiving email advertising.
Do you advertise via e-mail? You must keep to the rules in the Code for e-mail.
If you send unsolicited e-mail, recipients can report it as spam to the Dutch Consumer and Market Authority (ACM) and file a complaint via Spamklacht.nl (in Dutch). The ACM can fine you. Fines can be as high as €900,000 per violation.
Complaints to the Advertising Code Committee
If a consumer believes that they have been misled by your advertising, they can submit a complaint to the Advertising Code Committee (Reclame Code Commissie). If their claim is granted, you can no longer use that particular advertisement or you have to change the advertisement. In some cases you may also have to publish a rectification.