Note: This product is a scam Read this precautionary story!
“Given that the respondent not only repeats its offense of making unsubstantiated weight loss claims, but also that it appears to employ the same unfounded marketing strategy for at least two of its products, the Directorate is satisfied that an Ad Alert in terms of Clause 15.4 of the Procedural Guide is justified.”
If you see an advert for this product, is is likely contrary to the ASA ruling and we would appreciate it if you could comment at the end of this post as to where you saw the advert.
According to www.uniforum.org.za the billing address of the domain holder of organoslim.co.za is:
37 Sunset Av., Llandudno, 7806
phone : +27 21 790 7556
The owner may be Johan Brittz according to the registration information.
| Organo Slim / A Blom / 16330|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between: Andrie Blom Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
BoundlessTrade 149 t/a Be Trim Respondent
16 Nov 2010
Mr Blom lodged a consumer complaint against a Be Trim print advertisement promoting its “Organo Slim” product. The advertisement was published in the Tyd magazine, a Rapport insert, dated 15 August 2010.
The advertisement is headed “15 Kilos in 1 Maand!!”, meaning “15 Kilos in 1 Month”. It contains, inter alia, testimonials from customers who are said to have used the advertised product. It promotes the product as fast and safe and claims that the results last forever.
Some of the claims made include “Organo-Slim is heeltemal veilig vir elke mens – selfs ‘n kind!”, which translates to “Organo-Slim is completely safe for each person – even a child!”, and “Organo-Slim se unieke anti-vet formulering verhoed die vorming van vet …”, which translates to “Organo-Slim’s unique anti-fat formulation prevents the formation of fat …”. It also refers people to the website www.organoslim.co.za for more information.
The complainant is of the opinion that the weight loss claims made in the advertisement are unsubstantiated, misleading and medically unsound.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint, the following clauses of the Code were identified as relevant:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
• Appendix E – Advertising for slimming
The respondent related her personal experience in using this product, and also submitted that the advertised weight loss system is very effective and has helped countless people to lose weight.
It has gone to incredible lengths to ensure that its weight loss system is comprehensive, covering all aspects of weight loss to ensure that its customers have an effective way not to just lose weight, but to keep it off. It also detailed how the four fiber tablets taken a day expand in the stomach to make a person feel fuller, which results in less eating.
The respondent also attached the following documentation:
- The before and after photographs of a “Greg Stuart” with a letter testifying that he managed to lose 5 kilograms with 2.5 weeks aided by the advertised product. Mr Stuart adds that he exercises a lot and has changed his eating habits too.
- The before and after photographs of a “Willem Greef”.
- An article by Stephen Laifer, titled “New Findings on Fiber”, which was published in the LE Magazine on May 2005.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
The Directorate notes that the respondent has capitalised on alleged testimonials of customers who claimed to have achieved the desired results with the product. It also submitted before and after photographs of two satisfied customers in support of its claimed weight loss.
In USN / De Castro Ramos & Others / 875 (17 June 2005) where a similar issue was considered, the Directorate stated as follows:
“The claim ’Change your body in less than 12 weeks!’ (our emphasis) precedes ‘before and after’ type photos. The advertisements also carry statements such as ‘Body fat before – 20% after – 6.5% Lost 18 kg’s of body fat Gained 5.5 kg’s lean muscle’ and ‘With USN’s supplements and 4 days training a week it took Johan less than 12 weeks to achieve this result. He could not believe how easy it was’. This is likely to create an impression with the hypothetical reasonable consumer that such results are within reach. When viewed as a whole, the advertisements convey the message that the average consumer will achieve similar results. The message conveyed is essentially ’if they could do it, so can you’.”
In Herbex Weight Loss / HA Steinman / 12944 (14 July 2009) the Directorate considered a commercial where women discussed their experience with the advertiser’s product. It ruled:
“While the respondent has indicated by the attached testimonials that the depicted models achieved the advertised results, there is nothing before the Directorate to show that the product is capable of achieving such results in a statistically significant number of cases, and on the average consumer using the product.”
The Directorate is cognisant of the fact that the aim of any commercial advertisement is to convince people to buy the product or utilise the service advertised. There can be no doubt that, looking at the respondent’s advertisement as a whole, the hypothetical reasonable person would interpret it to imply that the respondent’s product can deliver similar favourable weight loss results.
The significance of this lies in the fact that the respondent is still required to prove such implied efficacy, and cannot simply assume that the testimonies themselves will adequately substantiate such claims.
Based on the above, the submitted photographs as well as testimonials are not acceptable as substantiation.
Clause 4.1 of Section II states that before advertising is published, advertisers shall hold in their possession documentary evidence to support all claims that are capable of objective substantiation. In addition, it stipulates that such substantiation should emanate from, or at the very least be evaluated and verified by an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate.
It is trite that the ASA requires product-specific verification, which confirms that the product, when used at the recommended dose, will deliver the claimed efficacy.
The respondent relies on an article by Stephen Laifer, titled “New Findings on Fiber”, which was published in the LE Magazine on May 2005.
While the respondent submits that the research by Stephen Lifer supports the use of fibre in weight loss, the research article contains nothing that is relevant or linked to the advertised product. It is also noted that this article is now more than five years old, and the Directorate is not convinced that it can still be regarded as up to date and market-relevant.
In addition to this, the Directorate has no information as to what type of magazine “LE Magazine” is. A quick search on google returns, inter alia, results for the Life Extension Magazine”, which contains the exact article by Stephen Laifer in its archives. The Directorate notes, however, that this publication belongs to the Life Extension Foundation Buyers Club and also promotes anti-ageing and weight loss supplements. Given this, the Life Extension and Buyers Club clearly have an interest in promoting such supplements, which would hardly make it an independent authority on the subject matter.
There is currently nothing before the Directorate that verifies that the research supports the claims made in respect of the respondent’s product specifically, and as such, there is nothing to substantiate the claimed weight loss efficacy of the respondent’s Organo-Slim product.
Accordingly the advertisement is promoting the product based on unsubstantiated weight loss capabilities, which is in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II.
The Directorate deems it unnecessary to deal with the other cited clauses at this stage.
Given the above finding:
- The advertisement must be withdrawn in its current format;
- The process to withdraw the advertisement must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of 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.
The complaint is upheld.
The Directorate notes, with some concern, that it has been dealing intermittently with the respondent since 2007. More significantly, the respondent has, in each instance, been found to be in breach of the Code and / or existing adverse rulings. The relevant rulings are:
- Be-Trim / L de Weerdt / 8660 (24 May 2007) in which the respondent’s weight loss claims, under the heading “20 Kilos in 3 Weke” were found to be unsubstantiated.
- Be-Trim / L de Weerdt / 8660 (8 April 2008) in which the respondent again placed the same advertisement as ruled against on 24 May 2007. The Directorate did not, at this stage, impose sanctions on the respondent.
- Be-Trim / L de Weerdt / 8660 (15 September 2009) in which the respondent was again found in breach of the original ruling for continuing to make unsubstantiated weight loss claims, this time under the heading “12 Kilos in 10 Days!”
- Be-Trim / L de Weerdt / 8860 (2 December 2009) in which the Directorate imposed a once-of pre-clearance sanction on the respondent in accordance with Clause 14.2 of the Procedural Guide. In terms of this sanction, the respondent was ordered to submit the proposed amendments, original advertisement and all previous ASA rulings to the ACA Advisory Service for pre-publication advice.
While technically speaking these rulings relate to what appears to be a different product, the Directorate cannot ignore the fact that the respondent is now, effectively using the same, unsubstantiated marketing campaign for a “new” product despite repeated reference to the requirements of independent and credible substantiation in all previous rulings. This indicates a deliberate attempt to circumvent the principles contained in the Code of Advertising Practice.
The Directorate also again draws the respondent’s attention to Clause 3.3 of Guideline 3 of the Code, as well as the provisions of Appendix E.
Given that the respondent not only repeats its offense of making unsubstantiated weight loss claims, but also that it appears to employ the same unfounded marketing strategy for at least two of its products, the Directorate is satisfied that an Ad Alert in terms of Clause 15.4 of the Procedural Guide is justified.
Accordingly, the Directorate will issue an Ad Alert to all its members, including newspapers and magazines to not accept advertising from the respondent for its weight loss products.