Posted 21 May 2012
|I remember as a kid, my father’s obsession with his hair-loss. I remember him spending lots of money on lots and lots|
of products, none which prevented further hair loss. Hair loss is mainly genetic. Few products have any effect on preventing further hair loss, and these assist in few specific reversible conditions.
Vigro capitalises on individuals stressed and over-anxious by hair loss, selling impossible dreams of regrowth. The advertisements claimed “Vigro 3-step programme” as “… and effective long lasting solution for thinning hair”.
In my complaint I argued that this was rubbish and impossible: ” As thinning hair is an emotive issue, people are likely to try this product out of desperation. Simply supplementing with the respondent’s vitamins will not work”.
The ASA asked Vigro for evidence that their claims were possible. Of course, they could not.
| Vigro / HA Steinman / 19196
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
PSN Brands (Pty) Ltd Respondent
16 May 2012
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against advertising appearing on the respondent’s website www.vigrohair.co.za.
The advertising promotes the respondent’s “Vigro 3-step programme” as “… and effective long lasting solution for thinning hair”.
In essence, the complainant argued that there is no robust evidence that this product would prevent hair loss, or even promote new hair growth. As thinning hair is an emotive issue, people are likely to try this product out of desperation. Simply supplementing with the respondent’s vitamins will not work.
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
Stefan Vos Marketing Regulation Advisers, on behalf of the respondent, pointed out that the complainant is incorrectly associating genetic or hereditary hair loss with abnormal hair loss (the latter being what this product is targeted at). It pointed out that the advertising at issue consistently refers to “counteracting abnormal hair loss”; “promote new hair growth”; “promote healthy hair growth” and “help guard against premature hair loss”.
In substantiation for the relevant claims it relied on a report from Mr John Knowlton, an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. It also submitted copies of the relevant studies conducted and relied on for the purposes of making the claims. It also explained that the level of active ingredient (FollicusanTM) in its products are at all times equal to or higher than that used in the relevant studies.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
Clause 4.1 of Section II requires substantiation from an independent and credible expert for the claims made in advertising. In addition, it is trite that the Directorate requires unequivocal and product-specific substantiation, verifying that the claims are true for the product as a whole when used at the recommended dosage (see ruling under reference Solal Breast Protection Formula / R Jobson / 18707 (15 February 2012) for comprehensive explanation).
The respondent pointed out that the claims at issue relate to abnormal hair loss, meaning that they do not pertain to genetic or hereditary hair loss conditions. The Directorate, however, is doubtful whether the advertising at issue makes this pertinently clear, especially since the respondent’s homepage makes no mention of abnormal hair loss, but rather presents the product as a solution for thinning hair in general. In fact, even the page titled “Understanding Hair Loss” merely contextualises the phenomenon in terms of hair loss exceeding new hair growth. The Directorate is not convinced that any person would automatically realise that the respondent’s claims should be viewed from the context of “abnormal hair loss”.
One only learns that the respondent’s product is of no value in cases of hereditary hair loss if one bothers to scrutinise the “FAQ’s” listed on the respondent’s website. This is not sufficient and the Directorate agrees with the complainant that one would likely draw the conclusion that the respondent’s product could offer assistance for any type of hair loss.
In addition to this, the Directorate is not satisfied that the substantiation submitted is adequate. While the respondent has submitted independent verification from, what appears to be a credible expert in the field (something which the Directorate does not have to make a finding on at this time), this substantiation is not product-specific.
Mr Knowlton confirms this when he states:
“… the data submitted to me provides adequate evidence for the scientific substantiation of the claims being made about Vigro, with two caveats: Firstly, that the excipients used in the various studies to determine the efficacy of FollicusanTM would not enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredient, when compared to the excipients design used in the Vigro product range. Secondly, that the level of FollicusanTM used in the Vigro product range was equal to, or greater than the concentration of FollicusanTM used in the studies from which data was provided”.
This not only confirms that the product formulation used for testing was different to that available for sale on the market, but also appears to suggest that the excipients (i.e. additional ingredients used to compile the entire product) could impact on efficacy.
Given the above, and given that the Directorate is not satisfied that it is made perfectly clear on the respondent’s website that this product would only (assuming that this were true) work on people who are not exhibiting signs of hereditary hair loss, the Directorate is not satisfied that the substantiation is adequate.
In light of the above, the advertising is currently unsubstantiated and in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
As a result, the respondent is instructed to:
Withdraw the advertising that gave rise to the dispute;
Action its withdrawal with immediate effect upon receipt of this ruling;
Ensure that the withdrawal process is completed within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and
Not use the advertising at issue again in future unless new substantiation has been submitted, evaluated, and accepted by way of a new ruling.
The complaint is upheld.
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