The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld 3 complaints from the Society for Science Based Healthcare regarding misleading health claims. These are the latest in a long line of successful complaints laid with the ASA about misleading health claims, regarding products and services ranging from chiropractic and acupuncture to magnetic mattress underlays and a quantum magnetic health analyser.
DailyDo, a daily deals website, advertised amber teething necklaces with phrases such as “Traditional homeopathic treatment for teething babies, designed to help provide relief”. As the advertiser was unable to provide any evidence to support their claims, the Advertising Standards Complaints Board ruled that “the advertisement was misleading and had not been prepared with the high standard of social responsibility required for products with intended therapeutic use”. An identical advertisement was also published on another daily deals website, Yazoom, although as this came after the complaint was lodged it was not included.
This is the latest in a series of over 20 successful complaints regarding misleading health claims about amber beads, which has resulted in a new ANZA guideline specifically for advertising amber beads. In response to this complaint, the ASA sent a copy of this guideline to other one day deal sites.
A number of the advertisers of these products, such as Baa Baa Beads, have had complaints upheld against them in the past but refused to remove their misleading claims. Now that the Fair Trading Act has been recently updated to prohibit unsubstantiated claims in trade, we hope that the Commerce Commission will step in to put a stop to claims such as these. We intend to file a complaint against the companies that continue to make these misleading claims with the Commerce Commission.
The Pure Wellbeing website advertised Detox Foot Patches, claiming that they could remove “toxins” and heavy metals “By stimulating the reflexology points and the blood circulation”. However, when asked to either provide substantiation for these claims or remove them, the advertiser responded only that their foot patches are registered as medical devices in Australia.
Because the advertiser failed to provide any evidence that the claims they were making about their product were true, the complaints board ruled that the advertisement was misleading and must therefore be removed, upholding the complaint made against it.
There were also two settled complaints from the Society for Science Based Healthcare, regarding homeopathy by Ngaio Health and colour therapy by Colour Therapy Manukau. Both companies had claimed that they were able to treat serious health conditions such as cancer but did not substantiate these claims. In both cases the company agreed to remove the claims.
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which was recently embroiled in controversy regarding unsubstantiated claims that its holy oil could heal a variety of serious health problems, has also a complaint from the Society for Science Based Healthcare upheld against them. Bishop Victor Silva, when responding to a previous ASA complaint regarding a direct mail advertisement, had promised that:
“When we come to hold another similar event, we will take external advice as to the content of any promotional material to doubly ensure that it is fully compliant with all regulation and that there is no chance of another complaint of this nature.”
Despite these assurances, within 3 weeks of this promise the church sent out another direct mail advertisement for a “chain of prayer” series of events. This advertisement claimed that “IT WORKS!” and that a “HEALING” session on Tuesday was for such cases as “When doctors & medicines are not enough” and “incurable diseases”. A majority of the complaints board agreed that “the Advertiser had presented their religious beliefs in evangelical healing as an absolute fact, rather than opinion, and may mislead and deceive vulnerable people who may be suffering from any of the illnesses listed in the advertisement” and therefore they ruled to uphold the complaint.
The Society for Science Based Healthcare welcomes these decisions, and hopes that the advertisers involved will take them to heart and refrain from making misleading health claims in the future. These are the latest in a long line of complaints about misinformation regarding healthcare, and as there is plenty more misinformation about healthcare still out there you can expect to hear about more of these in the future.