Advertising that misleads, curbed

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Posted 10 October 2017

This article published in Die Rapport on 08 October 2017, written by Elaine Swanepoel, reports on the recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) where Herbex lost their attempt to prevent the ASA from impacting their advertising in the media. Herbex took the ASA to court arguing that the ASA has no jurisdiction over the unproven claims they make for their products. The High Court agreed – Herbex won. However, the ASA appealed to the SCA – Herbex lost.

Although Herbex gained some concessions, in general, it was a major loss. That is not how Herbex sees it – as reported in their media release (quoted at the end of the article), and reported on here.

The English translation (Google Translate), follows the article below

‘Reklame wat om die bos lei’ bekamp

Deur Elaine Swanepoel 08 Oktober 2017 

Die Rapport

Dit gaan in die toekoms moeiliker wees vir maatskappye om pille, poeiers en ander rate te adverteer as dit nie wetenskaplik getoets is om die kwale wat dit voorgee om te genees, gesond te maak nie. Dit kom ná ’n beslissing van die appèlhof dat die Gesagsliggaam vir Reklamestandaarde (GRS) wel jurisdiksie het om uitsprake oor sulke advertensies te maak, selfs al is die maatskappye wat die advertensie plaas of die advertensie namens hulle vervaardig nie GRS-lede nie.

Die GRS is ’n vrywillige liggaam waaraan talle groot advertensiemaatskappye, uitsaaiers en mediahuise behoort. Lede van die GRS onderneem om hulle by die GRS se uitsprake neer te lê en geen advertensie wat deur die GRS verbied word, te vervaardig, te publiseer of uit te saai nie. Herbex, ’n vervaardiger van kruiedoepas, het die GRS in 2015 hof toe geneem nadat die liggaam beslis het dat daar nie genoeg wetenskaplike bewyse is dat hul maermaakprodukte wel so doeltreffend is soos hulle in advertensies voorgee nie.

Herbex, wat nie lid is van die GRS nie, het beweer die liggaam het onregmatig opgetree deur bevindings teen Herbex op die GRS se webtuiste te plaas. Dié bevindings, sê Herbex, is skadelik vir sy reputasie en sake. Die hooggeregshof in Johannesburg het aanvanklik in Herbex se guns beslis dat die GRS geen jurisdiksie oor ’n persoon of entiteit het wat nie lid is van die liggaam nie.

Die GRS moes die uitslae van verskeie beslissings teen Herbex van sy webtuiste verwyder en kon ook geen nuwe bevindings teen die maatskappy se advertensies maak nie. Die appèlhof het nou dié bevindings tersyde gestel. Dit beteken dat die GRS wel bevindings kan maak teen advertensies van nielede en dat ’n verbod op die plaas van sulke advertensies bindend is vir lede – soos koerante en tydskrifte.

Hulle hoef ook geen bevindinge teen nielede van hul webblad te verwyder nie. Luidens die uitspraak moet die GRS egter op sy webtuiste en in amptelike korrespondensie aandui dat hy geen mag het om aan maatskappye of groepe wat nié lede is nie, voor te skryf nie en dat nie lede geen plig het om op hul bevindings te reageer nie.

“Hierdie is baie goeie nuus vir verbruikers omdat dit liggame soos die GRS in staat stel om verbruikers te beskerm teen maatskappye wat ongegronde stellings maak en verbruikers om die bos lei,” sê dr. Harris Steinman, direkteur van Food and Allergy Consulting & Testing Services.

Herbex sê hy is ewe tevrede met die uitspraak omdat hulle meen die GRS het voorgedoen dat hulle mag het oor entiteite wat nie hul lede is nie. “Die hof het nou bevestig die GRS is slegs ’n vrywillige liggaam en het geen wetlike mag oor entiteite wat nié lid is van die GRS nie. “Ons is ook bly die GRS het uiteindelik erken dat hul bevindings net bindend is vir hul lede,” sê Herbex in ’n verklaring.

English translation

It will be more difficult for companies to advertise pills, powders and other rates in the future if it has not been scientifically tested to cure the ailments it proposes to heal. It is a decision of the appeal court that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has jurisdiction to make judgments about such advertisements, even if the companies that place the ad or the advertisement on their behalf do not make ASA members.

The ASA is a voluntary body with many large advertising companies, broadcasters and media houses. Members of the ASA undertake to submit to the ASA statements and to not produce, publish or broadcast any advertisement prohibited by the ASA. Herbex, a manufacturer of herbal soup, took the ASA to court in 2015 after the body decided that there was not enough scientific evidence that their nutmeg products were as effective as they pretend to be in advertisements.

Herbex, who is not a member of the ASA, claims that the body acted illegally by placing findings against Herbex on the ASA website. These findings, says Herbex, are harmful to his reputation and business. The Supreme Court in Johannesburg initially decided in Herbex’s favor that the ASA has no jurisdiction over a person or entity that is not a member of the body.

The ASA had to remove the results of various decisions against Herbex from its website and could not make any new findings against the company’s advertisements. The appeal court has now ruled out these findings. This means that the ASA can make findings against non-advertisements and that a ban on placing such advertisements is binding on members – such as newspapers and magazines.

They also do not have to remove any findings against non-members from their webpage. According to the ruling, however, the ASA must indicate on its website and in official correspondence that it has no power to prescribe to non-member companies or groups and that no members have no duty to respond to their findings.

“This is very good news for consumers because it enables bodies like the ASA to protect consumers from companies that make unfounded statements and lead consumers around the forest,” said Dr. Harris Steinman, Director of Food and Allergy Consulting & Testing Services.

Herbex says he is equally pleased with the verdict because they believe the ASA has claimed that they have power over entities that are not their members. “The court has now confirmed that the ASA is only a voluntary body and has no legal power over entities that are not members of the ASA. “We are also pleased that the ASA finally acknowledged that their findings are binding only on their members,” Herbex said in a statement.

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