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Bet-Trim ASA breach ruling

"In Be-Trim / L De Weerdt / 8660 (24 May 2007), the Directorate ruled that the advertisement claiming, inter alia, “20 Kilos in 3 Weke!!” (20 Kilos in 3 Weeks) and having several personal references of people losing weight as a result of using this product, had to be withdrawn because the respondent did not submit substantiation for the relevant claims."

Complaint: "The respondent is clearly flagrantly ignoring the ASA’s regulations and rulings. Despite knowing full well about the requirements in the Code, the respondent is simply carrying on advertising more such products."

Respondent: " The respondent ends with an emotional appeal, explaining that it is not a big company, yet it is providing income for 6 families and if it cannot advertise its products these families will not have an income."

(Note: The owner, Johan Brittz lives in the very expensive area of Llandudno)

Be-Trim / L De Weerdt / 8660 

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate

In the matter between:

Louise De Weerdt Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)

Boundlesstrade 149 (Pty) Ltd t/a Be-Trim Respondent 

20 May 2011

BACKGROUND

In Be-Trim / L De Weerdt / 8660 (24 May 2007), the Directorate ruled that the advertisement claiming, inter alia, “20 Kilos in 3 Weke!!” (20 Kilos in 3 Weeks) and having several personal references of people losing weight as a result of using this product, had to be withdrawn because the respondent did not submit substantiation for the relevant claims. 

The respondent was instructed to withdraw the advertisement with immediate effect within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide. 

On 17 October 2007, Mrs AM Compton, submitted that the advertisement was still being used despite the existing ASA ruling. The Directorate ruled that it appeared to be the result of human error. It also appeared to be an isolated incident, as no other breach allegations have been received. 

On 8 April 2009 the respondent was found to have breached the original ruling, because the advertisement ruled against was again published. The Directorate did not, however, impose any sanction on the respondent at that time. 

On 15 September 2009 the Directorate ruled that the respondent was in breach of the previous ruling and both parties were given an opportunity to comment on sanctions. 

On 2 December 2009 the Directorate imposed a once-off pre-clearance sanction in terms of Clause 14.2 of the Procedural Guide. An Ad Alert was issued to the members advising them of this sanction. 

SUBSEQUENT TO THIS RULING

On 2 March 2011 another complainant, Dr Steinman, lodged a breach complaint against the respondent’s website www.betrim.co.za. It was submitted, inter alia, that the weight-loss claims are still being made for Be-Trim and states, “Be-Trim weight –loss products help you to lose weight, fast and keep it off permanently”. He added that someone also advised him that a very similar advertisement appeared in the February DStv DISH magazine, and another for a product called Easythin appeared in the March edition. 

The respondent is clearly flagrantly ignoring the ASA’s regulations and rulings. Despite knowing full well about the requirements in the Code, the respondent is simply carrying on advertising more such products. Similar allegations were also made about such claims being made for the respondent’s “Microslim” products, which the complainant interpreted as suggesting that the respondent simply creates new products and carries on making unsubstantiated weight loss claims. 

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the breach allegation the Directorate considered Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide (Enforcement of rulings) as relevant. 

RESPONSE

The respondent submitted a response dealing with its “Organoslim” product. It argued 

that, inter alia, that it has been providing a good, affordable, effective and healthy weight loss system for 17 years with no side effects and only good weight loss. 

It went on to explain the nature and benefit of its “Organoslim” product, without commenting at all on the dispute at hand, and the alleged non-compliance with prior rulings. 

The respondent ends with an emotional appeal, explaining that it is not a big company, yet it is providing income for 6 families and if it cannot advertise its products these families will not have an income. 

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties. 

Clause 15.1 of the Procedural Guide states that “The responsibility for adherence to a ruling made by the Directorate or the ASA Committees lies with the person against whom such ruling has been made”. 

It is worth noting that the respondent did not specifically address the breach allegation but argued the merits and efficacy of its “Organoslim” product. It is unclear what relevance this has in the current matter. 

In the ruling issued on 24 May 2007 the Directorate already dealt with the merits of this matter. It ruled, inter alia, that “… the respondent submitted no documentation in terms of Clause 4.1 of Section II to verify that the advertised product, when used at the recommended dose, would deliver the claimed results”. Despite the fact that the respondent has been taken to task for this before (refer the rulings in this matter dated 24 May 2007, 15 September 2009 and 2 December 2009), it has continued unabated to claim incredible weight loss without any evidence. 

Aside from arguing the efficacy of its “Organoslim” product (which is currently the subject of another breach investigation), the respondent has not submitted a single argument to explain why it still makes weight loss claims for this product despite not having any substantiation for it as required by the Code. This in itself appears to be a trend of the complainant (refer rulings dated 15 September 2009 and 2 December 2009 for examples). 

The Code requires an advertiser found against to ensure compliance, and the respondent cannot hide behind the fact that it maintains belief in the yet unproven abilities of the product, or the fact that it provides employment as a motivator for continuously disregarding express instructions to withdraw its advertising and unsubstantiated weight loss claims. 

Form the material at hand, it is clear that the respondent is in breach of the previous ruling and therefore in contravention of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide. 

The respondent is again instructed to withdraw any weight loss claims for this product with immediate effect from any medium in which they may appear. 

In light of this breach, Dr Harris Steinman is afforded ten (10) working days to comment on whether or not sanctions in terms of Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide are appropriate, and if so, which sanctions. After this time, the respondent will be afforded an equal opportunity, after which the Directorate will proceed in terms of Clause 14.6 of the Procedural Guide. 

The breach allegation is upheld.

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