Posted 24 January 2012
I first wrote about Repcillin here.
Repcillin is a cosmetic product manufactured from crocodile oil. It makes a number of unbelievable claims, including “[B]alm may be helpful in offering relief from itchy or painful skin conditions such as allergies, eczema, insect bites, sunburn, abrasions and skin infections. It may be helpful in preventing wrinkles” and “MCC (Medical Control Council of South Africa) Registered”.
A complaint was laid with the ASA and John Sweet, the “founder of Repcillin”, was unable to offer any evidence in support of the claims. Appears to be a scam.
Repcillin / HA Steinman / 19382
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Repcillin cc Respondent
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s advertising on its website www.repcillin.co.za, which promotes, inter alia, its cosmetic product manufactured from crocodile oil. The complainant specifically provided the URL http://www.repcillin.com/index.php/product-information/12-ingredients.html, and took issue with the following claims:
“Indications: Repcillin Balm may be helpful in offering relief from itchy or painful skin conditions such as allergies, eczema, insect bites, sunburn, abrasions and skin infections. It may be helpful in preventing wrinkles”;
“MCC (Medical Control Council of South Africa) Registered”;
“Pharmacological classification: A34”;
“Other (Western Complementary Medicine)”;
“This product is safe for use in children”;
“Can be covered with a gauze or bandage to ensure full absorption”;
“Crocodile oil is obtained from licensed CITES registered farms and is registered with the Medical Control Council for medicinal use in South AFRICA”;
“Its use for beautifying the skin has been known since the days of Queen Cleopatra two thousand years ago”;
“Dermatitis eczema … is more prevalent in cities and places where there is low humidity”;
“Dark Circles under the eyes are more common especially with Indian people”.
The following disclaimers also appear:
“The reviews and testimonials on this site refer to Repcillin. We make no claims that Repcillin will have the same results when used by purchasers as circumstances are different for each client and out of our control. No clinical trials have been made”;
“Although Repcillin has healed many skin problems, we make no claims about its healing properties whatsoever”.
In essence, the complainant submitted the claims listed above are unsubstantiated by any medical literature he has reviewed. He added that the disclaimers used are insufficient warning to consumers, and that this product may be nothing more than a scam.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were taken into account:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
The respondent explained that it does not have an in-house legal representative to assist with ensuring that all claims are in compliance with relevant legislation. It is, however, willing to effect any changes that might be necessary. It added that it applied for registration with the MCC and complied in all respects insofar as such applications are concerned insofar as sourcing and manufacturing, it explained that it has to complete extensive questionnaires on its manufacturing practices, and it is one of the few companies within South Africa to comply with registration for Bio-prospecting.
In closing, it confirmed that it has no intention to “scam, mislead, cheat or steal” and has therefore “… with pleasure, already removed those phrases and words, from our website, which have caused offense and concern to Mr Steinman and the ASA”, and “… given instructions to remove the insert from our packaging on the next production run …”
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
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, the undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
The respondent submitted that the wording objected to by the complainant has already been removed, and that it would have its packaging insert removed with immediate action as well.
As this appears to address the complainant’s concerns, there is no need for the Directorate to consider the merits of the matter.
The undertaking is therefore accepted on condition that the claims at issue are withdrawn within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and is not used again in future.
For the respondent’s guidance, the Directorate wishes to point out the following:
This undertaking applies to the claims wherever they may appear, irrespective of whether or not the complainant specifically identified a particular medium (Refer Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide);
The Code contains very specific requirements in terms of substantiation for any direct or implied efficacy claims. As an advertiser, the respondent is expected to comply with these requirements (refer Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code).
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