ASA ruling: “Exploitation of superstitions or beliefs”

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Posted 18 November 2011

This is an interesting Advertising Standards ruling for the complainant invoked Clause 29 of Section III which relates to the "Exploitation of superstitions or beliefs":

"Advertisements for lucky charms or products with unproven supernatural properties including those for achieving health, wealth or happiness should not imply that these products can affect the users circumstances unless such statements are substantiated."

Dr Manganda / W Du Plessis / 18506
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Mr Wynand Du Plessis Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Dr Manganda Respondent

15 Nov 2011
http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5839


Mr Du Plessis lodged a consumer complaint against a classified advertisement appearing in the Alberton Record during August 2011 in the “Health and Beauty” Section.

The advertisement reads as follows:

“THE KARNALIAN HERBS
DR MANG’ANDA
I DO BEST IN THE FOLLOWING:
* To bring back lost lover in (1HR), To make him/her marry you, to get any partner you want, financial problems, get rich within 2hrs, magic stick, boosting business, male enlargement any size you want, to remove bad luck, to bring more customers to your business, binding your properties permanently and other problems, everything is 100% GUARANTEED
For more information call:
087 262 1686 JHB”.

COMPLAINT
The complainant submitted that the advertisement is in breach of Clause 29 of Section III, which relates to the “Exploitation of superstitions or beliefs”. He explained that this clause requires advertisers to hold substantiation for any claims that imply that products offered by the advertiser hold any supernatural properties. In the absence of such substantiation claims of this nature are not allowed. The respondent holds no substantiation for the claims made.

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified Clause 29 of Section III (Exploitation of superstition or beliefs) as applicable.

RESPONSE
Despite all reasonable efforts made to elicit a response from the advertiser, no response was received. The Directorate therefore had no alternative but to rule on the matter based on the information available.

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

The proliferation of charlatan healers in recent years is concerning, especially as they tend to use unregulated forms of media, such as flyers distributed by hand, to promote their businesses based on unsubstantiated claims and offensive images. The ASA has ruled against such advertisements on numerous occasions in recent years, and it has hoped that the appropriate authorities will address this issue, as it is no doubt causing harm to the credibility of legitimate healers and practitioners and this industry at large.

The clause identified by the complainant reads:

“Advertisements for lucky charms or products with unproven supernatural properties including those for achieving health, wealth or happiness should not imply that these products can affect the user’s circumstances unless such statements are substantiated”.

There is nothing in the advertisement that specifically points to the respondent offering products (i.e. goods) other than an alleged “magic stick”. In general, the advertisement appears to suggest that the respondent’s services would deliver the claimed results.

In terms of Clause 4.23 of Section I, the Code defines a “product” as inclusive of goods, services, activities and facilities. From this, it is clear that the respondent’s services also fall under the auspices of the clause identified by the complainant.

In the absence of a response from the advertiser, the Directorate has no option but to rule that the claims, which clearly imply some sort of supernatural properties or abilities to “affect the user’s circumstances”, are unsubstantiated.

By virtue of this, the advertisement is in breach of Clause 29 of Section III of the Code.

Given the above, the respondent is required to:

withdraw the advertisement in its current format;

the process to withdraw the advertisement must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of the ruling;

the withdrawal of the advertisement must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and

the advertisement may not be used again in its current format.

In view of the fact that the respondent has failed to respond and an adverse ruling has been made, the ASA will issue an Ad Alert to its members with reference to the advertisement in question.

The complaint is upheld. 

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