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ASA Ruling: Supreme Slim

I argued to the ASA that Supreme Slim:

  • Could not prove that the mix of ingredients in this product would result in weight-loss
  • That the claim that the product was completely herbal was a lie
  • That it tries to give the impression that it is registered with the Medicines Control Council
  • That the name "Supreme Slim" is misleading – "slim" gives the impression that the product can result in weight loss.

How did the ASA rule?

 

SUPREME SLIM / H A STEINMAN / 15273

 

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris A Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Wellness Forever CC Respondent

20 May 2010

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5135

In essence, the complainant submitted that the name of the product infers weight loss, which is unsubstantiated, given that not a single study has been done to verify such an inference for the ingredients used in combination in this specific product.

Further, the claim “100% Herbal” is untrue as the ingredient information on the website clearly shows that they are not all herbally derived. Some ingredients are extracted or created by laboratory means.

The efficacy claims listed above are unsubstantiated, and in some instances, for example “Get results without exercise”, go directly against ASA requirements.

Finally, the product is not a mix of vitamins as suggested and also not registered with the MCC as implied.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint the following clauses of the code were taken in to account:
 

  • Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
  • Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims

RESPONSE

The respondent firstly denied that the name “Supreme Slim” implies or infers weight loss in any manner. It does, however, believe that the product used in conjunction with a diet and normal exercise will result in weight loss. A comprehensive diet plan is included in the box.

In an effort to avoid confusion the claim “100% Herbal” will be removed.

The respondent further attached several extracts containing information on some of the ingredients used in the product.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation as submitted by the complainant.
100% Herbal

The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, that undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.

The respondent undertook to stop using the claim “100% Herbal”. This undertaking appears to address the complainant’s concern and there is therefore no need for the Directorate to consider the merits of the matter insofar as this claim is concerned.

The undertaking to withdraw the claim “100% Herbal” is accepted on condition that it is not used again in future. The respondent’s attention is also drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.

MCC registration

The complainant submitted that “… this product tries to give the impression that it is ‘pharmacologically registered with the Medicines Control Council (MCC) as weight-loss products are required to be, but there is no proof that the product is registered with the MCC”. It appears from the complaint that this argument is based on the claim that the product carries a “Pharmacological Classification” of “A 22.2 Vitamins: Others”

The complainant did not, however, motivate or elaborate on this argument, and the Directorate is not informed as to why the reference to “A 22.2 Vitamins: Others” would imply registration with the MCC, or why the hypothetical reasonable person would interpret it in such a manner.

In the absence of clarity from the complainant, the Directorate is not in a position to consider this issue. It is noted, however, that whether or not the respondent’s registration is accurate is an issue best laid before the door of the MCC, and not the ASA.

This aspect of the complaint cannot be considered at this time.

Efficacy claims

When accessing the respondent’s “Features” link, the following claims appear:
 

  • “Appetite Suppressant • Suitable for men & women
  • Accelerates Metabolism • Non Addictive
  • No Chemicals • Get results without exercise
  • Increases energy levels • Body Detoxification
  • Fat Burner • Healthy eating plan included”.

    The complainant submitted that these claims have not been adequately substantiated by the respondent.

    Clause 4.1 of Section II requires advertisers to hold substantiation for all objectively verifiable claims made in advertising. It further stipulates that such verification should come from an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. It is trite that such substantiation should relate to the product as a whole when used at the recommended dose.

    The Directorate is satisfied that the claims listed above are capable of such verification. The only exception being “Healthy eating plan included”, as this does not speak to the efficacy of the product, but simply to an item included.

    The Directorate therefore requires independent verification for all the above claims, except for “Healthy eating plan included”.

    The respondent submitted a host of information from, inter alia, www.herbalextractsplus.com, www.raysahelian.com, and www.ehow.com on some of the ingredients contained in this product.

    This does not suffice, and as such there is no independent verification from a credible expert to show that the product, as a whole, when used at the recommended dose would deliver the results claimed, or that it contains “No Chemicals” as claimed.

    In light of this, the following claims are currently unsubstantiated and in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code:

    • “Appetite Suppressant • Suitable for men & women
    • Accelerates Metabolism • Non Addictive
    • No Chemicals • Get results without exercise
    • Increases energy levels • Body Detoxification
    • Fat Burner”

    Given that the claims are unsubstantiated, they are likely to mislead people in a manner that is in contravention of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.

    In light of this, the respondent is instructed to:

    • Withdraw these claims;
       
    • Ensure that the process to withdraw these claims is put into effect immediately upon receipt of this ruling;
       
    • Ensure that the withdrawal process is completed within the deadlines stipulated in the Code;
       
    • Ensure that the claims are not used again.

    The Directorate also draws the respondent’s attention to the provisions of Clause 2.3.1 of Appendix E of the Code insofar as the claim “Get results without exercise” is concerned.

    This aspect of the complaint is upheld.

    Product name

    The complainant submitted that the product name “Supreme Slim” implies and infers weight loss, which is not substantiated and therefore misleading.

    The respondent essentially argued that it does “not believe that the name and the product makes any claim as to weight loss”.

    In Slender Gel / Ha Steinman / 14795 (18 February 2010) the Directorate considered a similar complaint against the advertiser’s product called “Slender Gel”. The Directorate ruled as follows:

    “The Directorate acknowledges the fact that Slender Gel is the registered name of the respondent’s products. However, if product names are used in a certain manner, or carry an appropriate meaning in relation to the product, it can be understood by consumers to make certain promises or claims. In Bioslim Snack Bar / Dr HA Steinman / 857 (2 June 2005), for example, where a similar issue of a trademark on packaging was considered, the Directorate held that ‘The word ‘Bioslim’, incorporating as it does the word ‘slim’, as well as the silhouetted figure of a woman that forms the ‘I’ in ‘Bioslim’, has connotations of slimming’.

    The same principle applies in this matter. The word ‘Slender’ used on a product that purports to offer benefits of appetite suppression and reduction in cravings can only be interpreted to refer to slender in the sense of ‘becoming slender’. A hypothetical reasonable person would interpret the advertisement and the name of the product, to fall under slimming products categories and will expect claims made in relation to that product to be achievable. This is even more so given the weight loss and appetite suppressant claims made under the name of this product”.

    The same approach still holds true. The respondent is clearly associating its product with benefits such as “Appetite Suppressant”, “Accelerates Metabolism”; “Get results without exercise”; and “Fat Burner”. The only reasonable inference that can be drawn when viewing the name “Supreme Slim” in this context is that the product would result in the user becoming slimmer, or losing weight.

    In the absence of any substantiation as required by the Code for such an implied claim, the name “Supreme Slim” as currently used by the respondent is in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II.

    Given this, the name is likely to create a misleading expectation with the hypothetical reasonable person, which is in contravention of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II.

    Given the above:

    • The name “Supreme Slim” must be withdrawn;
       
    • The process to withdraw the name must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;
       
    • The withdrawal of the name must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
       
    • The name may not be used again in its current format.

    The respondent’s attention is drawn to Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.

    This aspect of the complaint is upheld.

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