Meta sued by Nigeria’s ads Regulatory body, ARCON

ARCON, the ads regulatory authority in Nigeria, on Tuesday 4 October, sued Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp, etc., in court, claiming that the tech giant has refused to operate by the advertorial regulations in the country (Nigeria) but rather displays unchecked ads, especially from foreign advertisers. It further slammed Meta with a 30 billion naira (approximately $70M) penalty to be paid as damages.
The damage is that the bypass of the advert rules has cost the government loss of money. This lawsuit emerged after several failed attempts by the regulatory body to reach an understanding with Meta on the nonconformance.

What we have gathered

ARCON (Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria) is the government agency charged with overseeing and regulating advertorials in the country.
The advertorial laws of Nigeria contain some ad policies that are perpetually bypassed by digital marketing practices:

  • Digital ads placements do not recognize tax laws in the country
  • Ads in the country (Nigeria) are supposed to be vetted by ASP before publication
  • The human models used in ads must be indigenous, that is, citizens of the country. If the advertiser wishes to do otherwise, the process must be duly checked by the regulatory body and a N500K fee must be paid.
  • Also, some of the country’s cultural values are not recognized in the ads displayed by the tech giant.
  • The ads regulatory body, ARCON, feels that the country loses money when consumers interact with online ads from Meta and eventually make direct purchases from the advertisers. A process that should have been done with tax deductions.

The big question (?)

Why is the regulatory body attacking the platform instead of the actual advertisers – the owners of the products and services?
Evans Ufeli, a lawyer and a correspondence in a call chat with Global Business on the lawsuit has an answer: “the reason the regulatory authority is not going after the advertisers is that they are not resident in the country. For you to file a lawsuit against an institution, it must be registered under the law of the country. It should have a statutory body and exists as an artificial person in the country.
According to Evans, the courts have no jurisdiction over such companies, and therefore, what the government is doing is to use the channel through which they have a parsonage in Nigeria to get at them.” (Paraphrased a little for better understanding).

A major concern

Is ARCON saying that Meta should start paying taxes to Nigeria for letting brands run online ads on its platform or it should stop allowing ads targeted at consumers in Nigeria or cease to serve the country with its platforms?
Although, according to Evans, the fact that Meta and ARCON are in the courts does not mean fighting. It is left for the court, functioning as the arbiter, to bring them to a just balance.
And finally, he said, the body is not asking Meta to stop running advertorials but that these ads must conform to the advert regulations of the country.

Let’s discuss this pragmatically in the comments section below…

Learn more from the video discussion below

ARCON sues Meta for unauthorized ads display in Nigeria

References

LinkedIn post by Ramah Nyang, Business Journalist, Bloomberg.

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