Homemark / Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth Enhancer – ASA ruling

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Posted 23 October 2015

A consumer complaint was laid against claims being made for Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth enhancer with an argument that there is no evidence that this product can enhance eyelash growth.

Homemark / Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth Enhancer / H Steinman  / 2015-1908F

Ruling of the: ASA Directorate

In the matter between:

DR HARRIS STEINMAN Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
HOMEMARK (PTY) LTD Respondent

16 October 2015

http://www.asasa.org.za/rulings/homemark_aragan_secret_eyelash_growth_enhancer-h_steinman-2015-1908f

Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the following claims appearing on the respondent’s website, in its television commercial as well as a YouTube commercial:
  • “Aragan Secret Eyelash Growth Enhancer increases the length of your lashes and gives you noticeably thicker lashes within only 4-8 weeks of use”.
  • “Eyelash Growth Enhancer not only increases eyelash density but also promotes eyelashes to regroup and is also effective when used on eyebrows”.
  • “… it nourishes the lashes and accelerates their growth, visibly increasing lash length and density …”

COMPLAINT

The complainant submitted that he has “… searched scientific databases, including PubMed and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, and elsewhere, for evidence that this specific product, or for the ingredient, Aragan Oil, that may support these claims but cannot find any evidence that supports the claims being made for this product …”
As a result, he submitted that the claims are unsubstantiated, as is the name of the product.
The complainant added that the respondent has a long history with the ASA, and is well aware of the provisions and requirements for substantiation. In the event that this claim is upheld, the Directorate should consider imposing sanctions on the respondent for again making unsubstantiated claims.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

Given the complaint, and the request for sanctions, the Directorate considered the following clauses of the Code to be relevant:
  • Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
  • Procedural Guide, Clause 14 – Sanctions

RESPONSE

The respondent submitted that it always has documentary evidence for its efficacy claims prior to advertising. However, it has difficulty in sourcing an independent expert to evaluate and confirm the validity of the claims based on such evidence.
Over the years, it has often relied on Dr Beverley Summers to assist, but she is no longer willing, because of constant abuse by the complainant, and because the ASA does not always accept her as a suitable expert despite ample experience and knowledge.
The ASA Code and procedures are becoming increasingly rigid, making it very hard to source acceptable expert evidence. As such, it is providing a copy of the clinical study relied on, and has removed its advertising for this product until such time as independent verification can be submitted.
It added that the ASA has given far too much leeway to this particular complainant, who is not committed to protecting consumers (who already enjoy a money-back guarantee), but rather to advance his own personal objectives.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, the undertaking may, at the discretion of the ASA, be accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
The respondent confirmed that it has already withdrawn its advertising, pending the submission of independent verification.
This appears to address the immediate concerns raised by the complainant, as the respondent will not continue promoting this product until such time as it has submitted, and the ASA has accepted its evidence (reference is made to Clause 4.1.7 of Section II of the Code in this regard).
The undertaking is therefore accepted as an adequate resolution to the matter on condition that the respondent refrains from making any of the claims objected to until such time as a new ASA ruling is issued.
It is accordingly not necessary to consider the merits of this matter, or the request for sanctions at this time.
However, for the guidance of the respondent, the Directorate notes that the provisions of the Code are clear, and expressly require independent verification from an expert in the field to which the claims relate prior to advertising being published.
The fact that the respondent might find it difficult to source such an independent opinion does not justify non-compliance with this requirement, and the respondent is cautioned to ensure it does not publish advertising again without having the requisite evidence and independent verification on-hand.
The confidential study submitted by the respondent emanates from an entity that is not known to the ASA. The respondent has also not provided any motivation as to why this entity would constitute an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. Similarly, the respondent has provided nothing to show that the product tested in this study is the same product promoted in its advertising, and was tested at the same dosage as recommended by the respondent.
It is hoped that the respondent’s independent verification will also address these particular issues.
Once the respondent’s independent verification has been submitted in accordance with the provisions of Clause 4.1.7 of Section II, a new ASA ruling will be issued, advising the respondent on the acceptability (or not) of its claims.

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