Slimbetti Active Xtreme – another scam
Posted 05 March 2013
A consumer laid a complaint with the ASA submitting that according to Slimbetti’s website, the two main ingredients are “Irvingia gabonensis” and green tea. There are limited studies for the ingredient Irvingia gabonensis on its own as quoted on the respondent’s website, but the complainant was unable to find a study where these two ingredients were combined, or combined in the same concentrations as is the case in this product.
Dr David Nye substantiated the product for SlimBetti. However the ASA Directorate was not satisfied that the weight loss claims made in the advertisement were appropriately and unequivocally verified as true and applicable to the product as a whole when consumed at the recommended dose and ruled against the claims for the product.
Readers will be aware that the same scam artists responsible for the other SlimBetti products, and previously SlenderMax, namely Jasmine and Chris Grindlay, are behind this product as well. In fact the ASA have ruled repeatedly against the false claims being made but they continue selling these products.
Posts related to Slimbetti / Slender Gel / SlenderMax
|Slimbetti Active Xtreme / R Jobson / 20982
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Professor M Roy Jobson Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Water Berry Trading 46 cc t/a Slimbetti Respondent
28 Feb 2013
Professor Jobson lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s print advertisement appearing in the July 2012 edition of Vrouekeur Magazine.
The advertisement features a “before and after” type photograph of “Hettie” from Cape Town, who is said to have lost 32kg, and is headed “SLIMBETTI Bewese verslankingsresultate! (SlimBetti Proven weight loss results).
Essentially it promotes the respondent’s “Active Xtreme” weight loss product, and encourages readers to use it in conjunction with the free Slimbetti “Slender Gel” given with every purchase to burn and keep off winter fat. It promotes the respondent’s Active Xtreme product as a “… alles-in-een vetbrander en eetlusdemper” (all-in-one fat burner and appetite suppressant).
It also lists five testimonials that the respondent appears to have received on facebook.
The complainant submitted that according to the respondent’s website, the two main ingredients are “Irvingia gabonensis” and green tea. There are limited studies for the ingredient Irvingia gabonensis on its own as quoted on the respondent’s website, but the complainant was unable to find a study where these two ingredients were combined, or combined in the same concentrations as is the case in this product.
The complainant added that the testimonials used in the advertisement need to be verified in terms of Clause 10 of Section II. He subsequently expanded on this request and explained which portions of the Code appear to have been breached and why. When doing so, he also added that the advertisement does not comply with the provisions of Appendix E of the Code (Advertising of slimming) because the mandatory statement that the product is only effective when used in conjunction with a kilojoule controlled diet is absent.
Similarly, the complainant was unable to find any evidence for the efficacy of SlimBetti Slender Gel. He added that this product appears to be the same as SlimBetti Hoodia Gel, and possibly Hoodia Slender Gel and/or Slender Max, which were products previously sold by the respondent’s Planet Hoodia company, and which have all been ruled against by the ASA. He added that the respondent’s website at one point promoted, what appears to be the same product combination, but at that time referred to the additional free product as SlimBetti “Hoodia Gel”, which supports the suspicion that this is one and the same product. The complainant suggested that the respondent could be asked to submit evidence that the product promoted as SlimBetti Slender Gel is actually different to those previously ruled against.
The complainant also referred to a claim that the respondent’s product obtained 92% of the votes on www.dietpillreview.co.za, and argued that this is misleading because one is not able to access the website.
The complainant referred to prior correspondence with the ASA and asked that this instance of a Caxton Publication accepting advertising from this respondent be referred to an Enquiry Committee in terms of Clause 13 of the Procedural Guide.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint, the Directorate considered the following clauses of the Code as relevant:
• Clause 4.1 of Section II (Substantiation
• Clause 4.2.1 of Section II (Misleading claims)
• Clause 10 of Section II (Testimonials)
The respondent did not address the complaint at all. It merely submitted an “Evaluation of evidence to support the effectiveness of Slimbetti Active Xtreme in weight loss and slimming” from Dr David, Michael Nye.
Dr Nye provided a summary of his Curriculum Vitae and dealt with research on the two main ingredients being Irvingia Gabonensis (the African Mango) and Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea).
In dealing with Green Tea specifically, Dr Nye noted that the dosage of 200mg in the product is “… comparable to the dosages used in many of the studies reviewed …” He admits that “… It is true that no formal studies exist for the combination [of Green Tea and Irvingia Gabonensis], as is often the case for many natural products. The testimonials provided to the respondent, together with the studies referred to above, attest to its efficacy”.
He concludes as follows:
“… I am of opinion that there is adequate research published in peer-reviewed journals, to support the claims made for the product, namely ‘fat-burning, improved metabolism, appetite suppressant, aid in effective weight management and fat loss when used in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet’. Although the combination of constituents has not been clinically tested, there is little likelihood of adverse effects, as the individual ingredients are well tolerated. The benefits appear to exceed the advertised claims, as improvement in metabolic factors such as cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and leptins, etc, would be expected to have major health benefits, over and above the eight loss. The dosages of the Irvingia gabonensis and Camelia sinensis in the product are adequate to produce the desired effects”.
In support of this verification, some of the studies referred to were also submitted to the ASA.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
Issues not addressed by the respondent
• The claimed 92% of votes on www.dietpillreview.co.za
The complainant claimed to be unable to access this website, and argued that this renders the claim misleading.
It is unclear why the complainant could not access the website (which the Directorate was able to access), or why he interprets this failure to access the website as misleading.
Given the lack of clarity from the complainant in this regard, the Directorate will not deal with this specific issue in the ruling.
The respondent opted not to address the complaint at all, and did not deny any of the complainant’s allegations in relation to, inter alia, the validity of the testimonials used, the possibility that the “Slender Gel” product given for free is just a repackaged version of another product previously ruled against the by the ASA, or the failure to make it pertinently clear that the product is ONLY effective when used in conjunction with a kilojoule restricted diet.
Insofar as the testimonials are concerned, the complainant pointed out the requirements for signed and dated copies that should be held for inspection, and questioned whether the testimonials actually applied at the time of the advertisement. He also questioned whether the people who are referred to in the testimonials are real as required by the Code.
In the absence of a response on this issue from the respondent, or any proof of the legitimacy and validity of the testimonials, the Directorate has no option but to assume that the testimonials used in the advertisement are not compliant with the provisions of Clause 10 of Section II as disputed by the complainant.
Given the above:
The testimonials objected to must be withdrawn;
The process to withdraw the testimonials must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;
The withdrawal of the testimonials must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
The testimonials may not be used again in their current format. The respondent’s attention is drawn to Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.
This aspect of the complaint is upheld.
• Appendix E (now Appendix D)
Appendix E (subsequently changed to Appendix D) deals with advertising for slimming. It requires, inter alia, that any dieting aids (such as this product) may not be advertised unless it is made pertinently clear that they are ONLY effective when used in conjunction with a kilojoule-controlled diet (refer Clause 2.3.1 of Appendix D).
While the complainant did refer to this appendix in his complaint, the Directorate’s official correspondence to the respondent omitted to mention that this appendix would be considered. The Directorate is therefore not in a position to rule on this aspect of the complaint at this time. The respondent would do well, however, to consider the provisions of this appendix and this requirement in its future advertising.
• Slender Gel
The complainant correctly argued that the respondent (both as SlimBetti or under its previous guise as Planet Hoodia CC) has received several adverse rulings for making unsubstantiated weight loss claims.
In Slimbetti Hoodia Gel / HA Steinman / 18189 (17 October 2011) for example, the Directorate ruled as follows:
“Since 2009 to date, the respondent’s other company (Planet hoodia CC) has been the subject of a substantial number of ASA investigations, mostly finding that the respondent has either made unsubstantiated weight loss claims, or that the respondent acted in breach of adverse rulings. The respondent (then acting as Planet hoodia CC) received sanctions in terms of Clause 14.1 of the Procedural Guide (mere removal of the advertising at issue), 14.2 of the Procedural Guide (once-off preclearance of advertising), 14.3 of the Procedural Guide (preclearance of all advertising for a pre-determined period), 14.5 of the Procedural Guide (having the place a summarised version of a ruling in media considered appropriate by the ASA), and most recently 14.4 of the Procedural Guide (having to place adverse publicity statements in a total of 11 magazines).
In addition, the respondent tendered voluntary undertakings to remove other advertising relating to two of its other Planet hoodia products. These undertakings were referred to the Advertising Standards Committee for consideration, and the rulings are still pending …
[It should be noted that the ASC has since delivered its ruling, finding that the respondent should not only publish the adverse publicity statement in the magazines required, but also on its website]
… Recently, the respondent started trading as Slim Betti under the name provided at the top of this ruling. In Slimbetti Thermo Advance / HA Steinman / 18209 (6 September 2011), as well as in Slimbetti Fibre Slim / HA Steinman / 18208 (6 September 2011), the Directorate ruled against the respondent’s claims on the basis that they were unsubstantiated.
While the Directorate has accepted the respondent’s undertaking insofar as its currently unsubstantiated weight loss and related claims are concerned, it cannot overlook the fact that the respondent is clearly well aware of the relevant requirements of the Code, specifically insofar as they relate to substantiation. Despite this, the respondent appears to have again started marketing a product despite not having any substantiation for it”.
The respondent was sanctioned by means of an Ad Alert as a result of this ruling.
The complainant now makes an argument that the new “Slender Gel” packaging on the advertisement at issue is likely the same “Hoodia Gel” previously ruled against. He supported this with a link to a page accessed in September 2012, which deals with and promotes the respondent’s “Hoodia Gel” product (http://www.freezepage.com/1346837259BTXHRXIETL).
Given the lack of response from the respondent, the Directorate accessed the respondent’s website to ascertain whether the complaint could perhaps be accurate. It is noted that at the time of ruling, the respondent’s website still promoted the same products previously ruled against (something which will not be addressed in this ruling).
It further contains a section promoting the “Slender Gel” product, with an image that appears to match the packaging shown in the advertisement. However, the name appearing on the packaging image is “HOODIA GEL”, and not Slender Gel. When one clicks on the link provided for this product, it opens up an explanatory page, and features a large image of the packaging, clearly displaying the name “HOODIA GEL” (the same product ruled against in Slimbetti Hoodia Gel / HA Steinman / 18189 (17 October 2011)).
It would be relatively simple for the respondent to provide independent verification from a recognised laboratory to show that this is not simply a repackaged version of its prior Hoodia Gel formulation for SlimBetti and possibly even for Planet Hoodia CC (which has received more than one adverse ruling on the basis of lack of substantiation). For some reason, however, the respondent opted not to address this issue.
On a balance of probabilities, and given the lack of a response to this allegation from the respondent, the Directorate is satisfied that the respondent’s “Slender Gel” product is the same as its Hoodia Gel product, and is therefore still being marketed as a weight loss product despite previous adverse rulings.
While the complainant has not asked the Directorate to rule on whether or not the respondent is in breach of a previous ruling, the fact that this product appears (on the basis of the information submitted to the Directorate) to be the same as that previously ruled against suggests that the respondent has little intention to comply with the ASA Code and rulings. If the Directorate were to impose sanctions, this could be an aggravating factor.
Weight loss efficacy
In support of the weight loss claims, the respondent is relying on verification from Dr David Nye. While he has previously been accepted by the ASA as a suitable expert in the field of homeopathy and natural products (refer Oscillococcinum / Z Joubert & Another / 18385 (30 July 2012) ruling of the Final Appeal Committee for example), the Directorate notes that it is not currently required to make a finding on the suitability of Dr Nye in this instance for the following reasons:
Unlike what was the case in the Oscillococcinum matter referred to above, the research and articles relied on in this matter do not relate to the product as a whole, but only to two of its ingredients. It is trite that the ASA requires product-specific evidence in order to accept substantiation (refer ruling under reference Solal Breast Protection Formula / R Jobson / 18707 (15 February 2012) for comprehensive explanation).
Dr Nye admits that no studies have been done on the combined efficacy (if any) of the two main ingredients, which again negates any argument of having product-specific substantiation.
Dr Nye also relies, inter alia, on studies that verify efficacy of green tea (in isolation, NOT as part of this product) when combined with 180 minutes of exercise per week. The advertisement at issue makes no mention of the fact that efficacy is dependent on exercise.
Dr Nye’s conclusion again explains that the efficacy claims appear to be supported by literature “… when used in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet”, a claim and requirement that is not made in the advertisement at issue.
As a whole, and based on the above, the Directorate is accordingly not satisfied that the weight loss claims made in the advertisement are appropriately and unequivocally verified as true and applicable to the product as a whole when consumed at the recommended dose.
The respondent’s weight loss claims are therefore found to be in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
Given the above:
The efficacy claims must be withdrawn;
The process to withdraw the efficacy claims must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;
The withdrawal of the efficacy claims must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
The efficacy claims may not be used again in their current format.
This aspect of the complaint is upheld and the respondent’s attention is drawn to Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide.
Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide states “The Directorate, the Advertising Standards Committee, the Advertising Industry Tribunal and the Final Appeal Committee shall be entitled to impose the following sanctions on the respondent in a complaint”.
Given that the respondent appears to be continuing its tendency to make unsubstantiated weight loss claims, the Directorate, in accordance with the provisions of Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide (Sanctions), calls on the parties to address it on whether or not sanctions are warranted.
The complainant is hereby afforded ten working days to comment on this issue, after which the respondent will be afforded equal opportunity. Once the relevant deadlines have lapsed, the Directorate will consider the issue of sanctions in accordance with the procedures set out in the Code.