Tarot, Divination and Advertising Law in Print and Media (UK)

This piece was originally published in Tarosophy (2011) by Marcus Katz but remains relevant in the UK at the time of publication here on the Tarot Association site. It is however not to be taken as legal advice and you should consult with professional and accredited advisors should you require assistance. You are also advised to check government sites for any updates to current regulations and legal terms.

Our information on trade law for tarot and divination may be found HERE, whilst on this present page we offer considered information on UK marketing law, particularly as it relates to advertising in print and broadcast media – which are covered by separate regulatory bodies. This should not be taken as specific legal advice, which should be sought from a legal professional.

Please do not copy text from this page but you are encouraged to provide a link to it, as we keep it updated here should we be informed of any changes to the regulations.

This guidance is provided by Tarot Professionals with the assistance of the UK-based Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). It is essential for any practitioner in the UK (and we offer these guidelines as good practice elsewhere in the world whilst we collate specific regional information) to be at least aware of the laws and regulations applying to their trade. Ignorance would be no defence should a complaint be made against you.

Having said that, despite somewhat hysterical claims in certain quarters of the psychic world, we have found that the relevant bodies are friendly, free to consult and able to offer clear, impartial advice on the relevant issues. They also have a sympathetic understanding of the vagaries enshrined in law, and a sense of humour when it comes to some of the ensuing discussions – as when recently talking about the difference between psychic and non-psychic charms … !

Non-Broadcast (Print) Media Marketing Law

We present here first marketing advice for the non-broadcast world. This advice applies to magazines, leaflets, business cards, pamphlets, and any other print media. The CAP copywriting team in the UK are a free service to advise you if you remain unsure after reading this article whether specific text in your material may contravene these guidelines.

We’ll begin by presenting a real case of a recent advert, complaint and adjudication against a tarot reader in the UK. We are hoping that Sister Charlotte is not a member of Tarot Professionals! Here’s the original advert, which received one complaint – which we should notice is enough to invoke the CAP and a legal team.


I am a palm tarotcard crystalball reader and spiritual healer with 25 years experience. I specialise with 100% success rate in removing: Bad Luck Sorrow Depression Curses Body Sicness Headaches Jealousy Witchcraft Evil or Negative Energies around you or your home Remember no matter how big you think your problems are, they are not impossible to solve! I can find solutions for you in:

Love Relationships Marriage Job Business Family Money Finance Studies Exams Immigration …

Have a moment to look through that wonderful advert. We couldn’t have made up an example as bad as this one, of course! Notice how many things you might find to complain about in the text, how many inaccuracies you might notice or where you simply disagree with the wording, spelling or grammar. Once you have done so we can turn to the actual complaint and the official adjudication of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) advertising body.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-Broadcast)


1. The complainant challenged whether Sister Charlotte could prove that she had a 100 per cent success rate in removing bad luck, sorrow, depression, curses, body sickness, headaches, jealousy, witchcraft, evil, and negative energies.

The ASA challenged whether Sister Charlotte could substantiate:

2. the claim that she had 25 years’ experience, and;

3. the claim that she could find solutions to people’s problems in love, relationships, marriage, jobs, business, family, money, finance, studies, exams, and immigration.

The CAP Code: 3.1; 7.1


Sister Charlotte said that she had withdrawn the leaflet and her future advertising would not contain claims identical or similar to those challenged. She said that she would refer to the CAP Code before drafting new marketing materials.

1. Sister Charlotte stated that she had received no complaints or negative feedback from clients. However, she had no proof of her success.

2. Sister Charlotte asserted that she had 25 years’ experience as a palm, tarot card and crystal ball reader and as a spiritual healer. She said that she had been continuously involved in the provision of psychic and spiritual services since childhood to the present date, both in the UK and Canada. However, she had no documentary evidence to prove her level of experience.

3. Sister Charlotte said that she would avoid claiming that she could find solutions to people’s problems in future, and would instead explain that she was able to provide support and advice in relation to certain problems.


1, 2 and 3 Upheld

The ASA noted that Sister Charlotte was unable to send documentary evidence to prove that she had a 100 per cent success rate in removing the afflictions listed in the ad or to demonstrate her length of experience. In addition, she was unable to send evidence to show that she had found solutions to people’s problems in any areas of life. We considered claims that marketers could successfully solve all problems, break curses, banish evil spirits, improve the health, wealth, love life, happiness, or other circumstances of readers should be avoided because they were likely to be impossible to prove. We concluded that Sister Charlotte’s claims were unsubstantiated and were likely to mislead.

We welcomed Sister Charlotte’s assurance that the claims would not reappear and that she would have regard to the CAP Code in future. However, we were concerned that she had taken six weeks to respond in writing to us, despite having received several reminders to contact us, and had not honoured any of the deadlines that we set. We told her to respond to our enquiries promptly in future.

On points 1, 2 & 3, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We advised Sister Charlotte to contact the CAP Copy Advice Team before advertising in future.

This ends the actual adjudication from the CAP.

The CAP Help Sheet

Having read through that real case, we can see that in all cases we must be appropriate with our wording and claims, and be able to provide documentary evidence where we make any claim. We must also demonstrate to some extent that we have taken steps to substantiate our skill or take appropriate advice, which is where an organisation such as Tarot Professionals can assist. Notice that this area of law is on marketing only – such considerations as insurance are covered by the new European Fair Trading Regulations as discussed elsewhere.

We are pleased – with permission – to present the entire text of the ‘Help Note’ which has been drawn up by the CAP specifically for the marketing of spiritual and psychic services. I am guessing that most professional tarot readers in the UK have never heard that this exists, and yet it is essential reading. It was recently updated, so also see their website for the latest version at any time after the publication of this text.

Committee of Advertising Practice (Non-broadcast)

Help Note on the Marketing of Spiritual and Psychic Services, Astrologers and Lucky Charms

CAP Help Notes offer guidance for non-broadcast marketing communications under the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code). For advice on the rules for TV or radio commercials, contact Clearcast www.clearcast.co.uk for TV ads or the Radio Centre for radio ads.

1. Background

These guidelines, drawn up by CAP, are intended to help marketers and their agencies interpret the rules in the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code). The ‘Key points’ are intended to guide media ad departments. The Help Note is based on past ASA decisions. It neither constitutes new rules nor binds the ASA Council in the event of a complaint about a marketing communication that follows it.

2. Key points for media ad departments

Marketers should hold documentary evidence to prove any claims that are capable of objective substantiation (Section 4).

Marketers should not mislead or exploit vulnerable people (Section 5).

Claims about successfully solving problems or improving health, etc. should be avoided because they are likely to be impossible to prove (Section 5).

Claims of ‘help offered’ should be replaced with ‘advice’ (Section 5).

References to healing should refer to spiritual rather than physical healing (Section 5).

Direct marketers should not imply that they have personal knowledge about recipients (Section 5).

Claims relating to the accuracy of readings or guaranteed results should not be made unless they are backed up by appropriate evidence (Section 5).

Claims about being a personal advisor to stars, the wealthy, etc. and claims such as ‘… as featured on TV’ should be backed up by appropriate evidence (Section 5).

Claims relating to the length of time that a marketer has been established should be backed up by evidence (Section 5).

Money-back guarantees should be clear and genuine (Section 5).

Any testimonials used should be genuine (Section 5).

Marketers should not imply that a lucky charm can directly affect a user’s circumstances (Section 6).

Claims that a lucky charm can act as a confidence prop are acceptable if emphasis is placed on a user’s state of mind (Section 6).

Unproven beliefs that do not relate to the effect of a lucky charm may be acceptable if expressed as a matter of opinion (Section 6).

Marketers offering premium rate fortune telling services should adhere to the ICSTIS Code of Practice (Section 7).

3. The Law

Marketers should seek legal advice or contact their Trading Standards Authority to ensure that their claims comply with the law. As a result of the repeal of the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 psychics, mediums and spiritualists are now subject to the 2008 Consumer Protection Regulations.

These regulations make it the marketers’ responsibility to prove that they did not mislead or coerce the average consumer and thereby cause them to purchase a product or service they would not have taken otherwise. The average consumer is deemed to be either a member of the group to whom the marketing communication was targeted at or consumers who are particularly vulnerable to unfair commercial practices.

4. The CAP Code

Marketers should comply with the CAP Code and, in particular, with these rules:

4.1 General rules

“Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation” (clause 3.1); “Marketers should not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers” (clause 6.1); and “Testimonials alone do not constitute substantiation and the opinions expressed in them must be supported, where necessary, with independent evidence of their accuracy. Any claims based on a testimonial must conform with the Code” (clause 14.3).

5. Additional guidance

5.1 Marketing by spiritualists, clairvoyants, psychics, fortune tellers, astrologers, etc.

Marketers of services that involve the prediction of the future, or the promise to make specific dreams come true, should advertise their services in a way that is neither misleading nor likely to exploit vulnerable people. Claims that marketers will successfully solve all problems, break curses, banish evil spirits, improve the health, wealth, love life, happiness, or other circumstances of readers should be avoided because they are likely to be impossible to prove;

5.1.2 Claims of ‘help offered’ should be replaced with ‘advice’ and the emphasis should be on the individual helping him or herself rather than events or changes happening to them as a result of some external force;

5.1.3 Psychics, mediums and religious organisations may be able to make some claims about healing only if it is clear that they are referring to spiritual, not physical, healing;

5.1.4 Marketers should not state or imply that they have personal information or knowledge about recipients of direct marketing e.g. “I see a major change or a move for you and possibly someone close to you.” They should not imply that they send personalised readings to recipients if the same, or a substantially similar report, is sent to everyone who requests a reading;

5.1.5 Marketers should not make claims relating to the accuracy of their readings or claim that results are ‘guaranteed’ unless they are able to provide evidence to prove the claims;

5.1.6 Claims that a marketer is a personal adviser to royalty, the police, celebrities, or wealthy business people, or that he or she has been featured on television, radio or in newspapers or magazines should be backed up by adequate and relevant evidence;

5.1.7 Claims that a marketer has been ‘established in the UK since …’, ‘… nobody has been established longer …’ or similar, should be backed up by evidence;

5.1.8 Marketers should ensure that the terms of any money-back guarantee are clear and that the guarantee is genuine; and

5.1.9 Testimonials used in marketing communications should be genuine. Testimonials and newspaper articles alone are not sufficient to substantiate claims (see clause 14.3 of the CAP Code).

6. The marketing of lucky charms (formerly the Help Note on the Marketing of Lucky Charms, August 1996)

6.1 Marketing communications for lucky charms or other products with unproven supernatural properties should not imply that these products can directly affect the user’s circumstances.


“Could the lucky charm make you popular?” – Unacceptable.

“I bought the lucky charm and got promoted at work” – Unacceptable.

6.2 Claims that they could act as a confidence prop are acceptable if the emphasis is on the user’s state of mind and not the product’s effect.


“When you’re feeling lonely clasp the lucky charm and tell yourself you’re an attractive person with lots to offer” – Acceptable.

“I used the lucky charm as a focus for positive thinking and got promoted at work” – Acceptable.

6.3 Unproven beliefs that do not relate to the effect of the product may be acceptable provided they are expressed as matters of opinion.


“Some Himalayan tribesmen believe the lucky charm vibrates with cosmic energy” – Acceptable.

7. Premium rate fortune telling services

7.1 Premium rate fortune telling services may either be live (where a caller speaks to a live operator) or recorded (where they listen to a pre-recorded message). As well as complying with these guidelines, the following special provisions that apply to promotional material for live premium rate services are contained in the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards in Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) Code of Practice (9th edition):

i) Unless the live service is available 24 hours a day or permission not to provide such information has been granted by ICSTIS, hours of operation must be stated on the promotional material;

ii) Unless ICSTIS has granted permission to do so, no promotion may be directed primarily at persons under 18 years of age or encourage such persons to call the service;

iii) Marketing communications must clearly state that conversations are being constantly recorded where there is such a requirement.

Marketers should contact ICSTIS for further advice or visit their website at:


Advice on specific marketing communications is available from the Copy Advice Team by telephone on 020 7492 2100, by fax on 020 7404 3404 or by email on copyadvice@cap.org.uk. The CAP website at http://www.cap.org.uk contains a full list of Help Notes as well as access to the AdviceOnline database, which has links through to relevant Code rules and ASA adjudications.

February 2004 Revised: January 2009

Summary of Guidance

So this is the official guidance and help on the legalities of marketing our profession here in the UK. There are no other laws, regulations or loopholes on tarot, psychic services or astrology anywhere other than this guidance and the CAP standards to which it refers, which are more about general issues of substantiation, guarantees and the exploitation of vulnerable people which apply to any trading.

There are no secret government agendas to target psychics, astrologers and tarot readers that can be inferred from these laws, neither are they constraining to any who practice an ethical, considered approach to tarot reading and who state this clearly. We should welcome, consider and even work to develop such regulation in order to avoid the Sister Charlotte’s of this world keeping us in the 15th century.

We will now turn to the even stranger regulations governing the broadcast media. In the UK we are surrounded by regulatory bodies, making regulations and rulings that seem almost perversely random. Did you know that on Psychic TV, a satellite channel devoted to online psychic and tarot readings, you cannot say the word tarot?

Broadcast Media Marketing Law

There are going to be specific laws in your area for the broadcast media marketing of tarot. These are likely to be antiquated, vague, contradictory, or downright bizarre. One of the aims of Tarot Professionals is to survey these laws and start to campaign for their updating, particularly where they are prejudicial or inaccurate.

The following piece is primarily for UK broadcast media, but may give an indication of the likely legislations, ordinances or guidance in your area.

The first important point – and this is little-known in the tarot community – is that the whole of the UK guidance on mass media legislation for tarot is based upon the ill-informed opinions of less than 3,000 people. That’s about 0.004 per cent of the UK who have helped decide what you can and can’t say or do with regard to tarot on TV.

This is because the current guidelines are based upon one of the few quantitative surveys to incorporate a mass audience perception of tarot which was conducted in November of 2001 when some 3,000 people in the UK were surveyed for the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC). The aim of this survey, which was called Beyond Entertainment, was to assess whether certain types of alternative belief or psychic and occult phenomena would cause offence if demonstrated or explicitly discussed on television – an offence suggested by a prevailing view as being likely.

The survey has certain constraints and is not comprehensive in its geographical selection of population, which was limited to London and Manchester. It also only included in the ‘expert’ category of the sample, an “energy Healer, Diocese Exorcist, Alternative Medicine Practitioner, Para-Psychologist Academic, two Psychiatric Social Workers, and a medium.” It did not include any tarot readers or practitioners or academic students engaged with tarot or any other purportedly ‘esoteric’ subjects.

The survey is couched in terms which demonstrate implicit bias, such as referring to tarot as part of the ‘unregulated fringe practices’ which includes astrology and palmistry, as might be expected, but also Satanism and yoga! So it is no surprise that the recommendations are mostly negative and at best cautious.

The statements include assessments that some psychic material is considered unacceptable on mainstream television and a recognition that some types of psychic material has the potential to be harmful. Whilst lumping together occult practice, mediumship, spiritualism, and tarot, the guidance included: “Respondents suggested that ‘supposed contact with the dead’ should be considered ‘occult’ only when it involved the purported invocation of unknown spirits or negative forces. In other circumstances, clairaudience and clairvoyance were usually seen as relatively harmless, though respondents felt certain restrictions should still be applied.”

So if you go on mainstream television to do a tarot reading, ensure that you do not use the Golden Dawn prayer “I invoke thee, HRU …” before doing so!

The confusion in the research was astonishing, as reflecting a wider confusion in the public perception. Here is a section on the difference between psychic and occult:


“… many psychic practices such as horoscopes, reading auras, chakra healing, and crystals were seen as relatively harmless. Most thought much of it, for example, horoscopes, palmistry, etc. was about the acquisition of positive, comforting information and generic advice. Clairaudience – the claimed ability to hear things beyond the range of the power of hearing, e.g. voices or messages from the dead, and clairvoyance – the claimed ability to see things beyond the range of the power of vision e.g. the future, fell into an area of uncertainty. For many, these practices were acceptable because they involved supposedly, communing with dead loved ones, rather than unknown spirits. But others felt uncomfortable about them, and felt that they could be detrimental.”


“Respondents clearly identified things of the occult, for example, black magic, Ouija, Satanism, spells, and voodoo as having a negative quality. The occult was not just considered supposed contact with the dead but to be about invoking dark forces (potentially) with evil intent. Respondents felt occult practices were about influence, rather than personal enlightenment.”

Half Your Market Thinks That You Are Evil

Tarot was seen by 44 per cent of the respondents as occult. That means that if this survey is anything to go by, almost half the population of the UK views tarot as associated with something entirely negative.

The main reasons given by this appallingly small sample of people from London and Manchester for the negativity of tarot? The Death card, and tarot ‘messing with your mind’. So those are the main two concerns that you have to face with this as a product on the market.

The main reason that astrology wasn’t seen as veering into the occult and associated with negativity? ‘It’s in the newspapers’ so it must be normal and alright in some way – ‘a bit of a laugh’. That’s possibly the best that we can ever hope for with tarot; to move it from occult tampering with the dark forces to a jokey parlour game.

Teaching Tarot on TV?

So, in summary the report states that (quoting the ITC Programme Code):

“Horoscopes, palmistry and similar ‘psychic’ practices are only acceptable where they are presented as entertainment or are the subject of legitimate investigation.

They should not include specific advice to particular contributors or viewers about health or medical matters or about personal finance. They should not be included at times when large numbers of children are expected to be watching.

Fiction programmes containing ‘psychic’ phenomena should not normally be scheduled before the watershed, although a fantasy setting, for example, may justify such scheduling.

There was widespread agreement that ‘how to’ demonstrations on the occult were unacceptable and that programme content featuring practices such as horoscopes, palmistry and psychic practices should not be shown when children might be watching.”

Which means that you couldn’t teach tarot before 9:00 p.m. on television, and then only on a niche channel. This is ironic given that when you go onto Youtube and type in ‘tarot’ and get 28,000 videos, the first of which is ‘Tarot Card Reading Guide (2007)’.


There are many pitfalls in marketing, even for experts. In such a niche market as tarot, which is furthermore surrounded by barriers of misunderstanding, it is essential to understand marketing and research clearly. You must also factor in an educational project with your marketing, in order to better inform the market as to the nature of tarot reading. We are not well served by tarot groups and readers who play upon the gypsy and crystal ball stereotype which roots tarot in something occult and hence evil or harmful in public perception. There are many choices and channels of marketing available and it is easy to be overwhelmed or overly-ambitious. The producer of a newsletter should know how much time it will take, and the level of conversion (subscribers to purchasers) required in order to operate the newsletter – otherwise they will add to the low expectations when they have to stop the newsletter after seven months or continually run it with the copied content of other people. Content. Content. Content. And the time to produce it. Then go to market.