March 1, 2010 at 8:38 pm (Nutritionism, Supplements) (Advertising Standards Authority, ASA, CAP, Equazen, Fish Oil, Food Supplements, Health Supplements, Healthspan, Herbal Supplements, Holland and Barrett, MHRA, minerals, Omega 3, St Ivel, Vitamins)
When they’re not running trials initiatives, or being being slapped down by the Advertising Standards Authority, some firms like to while away the hours making complaints to the ASA about their competitors.
Equazen complained to the ASA about an ad for St Ivel milk that claimed their milk was ‘clever’, and used this claim: “Experts in children’s development believe more Omega 3 may enhance a child’s concentration and learning”; and this one: “Recent scientific studies suggest Omega 3 may play an important role enhancing learning and concentration in some children”.
The ASA considered that: “The ads breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 and 3.2 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies – general), 50.20 and 50.21 (Health & beauty products and therapies – vitamins, minerals and other food supplements).”
Having successfully complained to the ASA about the St Ivel product, Equazen then found themselves the subject of a similar complaint. This complaint, too, was successful:
the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies – general) and 50.21 (Health and beauty products and therapies – vitamins, minerals and other food supplements) […] CAP Code clause 50.3 (Health and beauty products and therapies – general) and 50.21 (Health and beauty products and therapies – vitamins, minerals and other food supplements).
This shows not only that health supplement manufacturers sometimes have trouble ensuring their adverts comply with some of the requirements of the advertising code – that claims be truthful and substantiated – but also that the industry is as competitive and businesslike as any other. A point I have made before.
I also have a more recent example. The ASA recently ruled that no fewer than eight complaints about a Healthspan advert were valid – the advert was deemed to have breached ten clauses of the CAP code.
Although six of the points challenged were actually raised by the ASA themselves, the initial complaint came from Holland and Barrett Retail Ltd (“the UK’s leading retailer of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements”).
Further examples of Alt Med industries submitting complaints about competitors are welcome – please feel free to post links to adjudications in the comments section below. It would be interesting to see how widespread this phenomenon is.
One further thing: I am aware that some businesses use, for example, the MHRA as a tool against competitors and wondered if this could be quantified somehow. Unfortunately, the MHRA told me that this information is not recorded by the Central Enquiry Point.