Travel firms advertising online will come under the regulation of UK watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority from next year.
The move will see all online marketing messages and paid for links, including those on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook, treated in the same way as traditional TV and newspaper advertising from March 1, 2011.
The expansion of the ASA’s remit has been part paid for by an initial £200,000 donation from search engine giant Google.
The ASA said its new powers were about protecting consumers and children and come after it received 4,500 complaints about online adverts since 2008 it was not able to deal with.
Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary and ASA chairman said: “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart.
“We have received more than 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from March 1 anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA.”
The ASA said it will focus on ads rather than on editorial content and that its new remit will extend to all business in all sectors regardless of their size.
As a watchdog the ASA has limited legislative powers but can investigate complaints and makes its judgments public and issues warnings to companies found in breach of rules.
The ASA can demand the removal of advertising it objects to and it can also post its own advertisements online to highlight firms that flout the rules.