Posted 25 July 2013
|Johan and Sandi Brittz are the scam artists behind Be-Trim, selling the same product under a range of names and ignoring ASA rulings. This complaint to the ASA points out that Caxton publishers,|
the owners of Vrouekeuer, have again not complied with ASA rulings and have accepted an adverts for this product, and that the product is now being sold under the guise of www.weightloss24.co.za. And in case you are wondering, the loss of your hard-earned money is going to keeping their lavish lifestyle in LLundudno intact. More, they have claimed that two distinguished scientists support their product, a blatant lie.
|Be-Trim / L De Weerdt / 8660|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Louise De Weerdt Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Boundlesstrade 149 (Pty) Ltd t/a Be-Trim Respondent
24 Jul 2013
In Be-Trim / L De Weerdt / 8660 (24 May 2007), the Directorate ruled that the advertisement claiming, inter alia, “20 Kilos in 3 Weke!!” (20 Kilos in 3 Weeks) and having several personal references of people losing weight as a result of using this product, had to be withdrawn because the respondent did not submit substantiation for the relevant claims. Since then, there have been several instances of breach, where the advertiser would make the same or similar unsubstantiated weight loss claims in different media, often under the guise of a different name (for example, “OrganoSlim”, “MicroSlim”, “SlimkySlim” and “EasyThin”). To date, no evidence of any kind has ever been submitted to the ASA.
SUBSEQUENT TO THIS RULING
On 18 June 2013 Dr Steinman, lodged a breach complaint against the respondent’s advertising appearing in Vroukeur magazine of 14 June 2013. The advertisement promotes the respondent under the name “WeightLoss24” and directs customers to the website www.weightloss24.co.za. The complainant submitted that this is still the same advertiser, indicating once again a clear contravention of the Code and of previous rulings.
The complainant further submitted that the website claims that “Top Scientists give us Natural ingredient which results in FAST yet SAFE weight loss with NO side effects. It was added that similar claims and testimonials are found on a new site, http://topslim.co.za which is also makes similar claims, but in this case the product is called TopSlim.
He added that he has been able to establish contact with two of the scientists referenced in the advertising (Prof Sidney J Stohs and Prof Keen), and neither of them know anything about this product.
The complainant argued that the two websites appear to be marketing the same product and are interrelated. Sanctions are clearly warranted.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the breach allegation the Directorate considered Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide (Enforcement of rulings) as relevant.
Before sending the breach allegation to the respondent, the Directorate confirmed that the correct contact details were still on record. The respondent confirmed that this was so. Despite this confirmation, and despite sending all correspondence as agreed, no response was received.
Subsequently, the respondent was advised that no response had been received, and that the Directorate would proceed to rule on the matter based on the information it had at its disposal.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the complainant. In the absence of a response from the advertiser, the Directorate had no option but to rule on the matter based on the information at hand.
Clause 15.1 of the Procedural Guide states that “The responsibility for adherence to a ruling made by the Directorate or the ASA Committees lies with the person against whom such ruling has been made”.
Despite the glaring similarities in composition and overall tone, the Directorate could not find any evidence that the www.topslim.co.za website is affiliated with, or belongs to the respondent.
Preliminary search on http://whois.coza revealed that the registrant of www.weightloss24.co.za and www.betrim.co.za websites is Brittz S and Brittz Johan respectively. These are also the same individuals previously ruled against in prior rulings. However, the registrant of www.topslim.co.za is one “Turner, Adam”, with a billing account linked to “Health and Weight Int.”
Furthermore, everindex.co.za, lists the IP address for www.weightloss24.co.za and www.betrim.co.za as 220.127.116.11, and explains that 13 domains are hosted on this IP. For www.topslim.co.za, it lists the IP address as 18.104.22.168, and shows that 10 domains are hosted on this IP. While the Directorate accepts that this is not necessarily conclusive evidence that the websites and respective owners are not one and the same, it does prima facie suggest that they are not. In the absence of any proof or evidence to the contrary, the Directorate cannot assume that they are the same persons. Therefore, the Directorate will not consider www.topslim.co.za website for the purpose of this ruling at this time.
There is no doubt that the wording contained in the current WeightLoss24 advertisement is materially and substantially the same as what was previously ruled against. As before, the respondent’s advertisement makes unsubstantiated promises of exceptional weight loss and features various alleged testimonials of satisfied customers. As before, not a shred of evidence has been presented.
Accordingly, the respondent is in contravention of the Directorate ruling of 24 May 2007 and therefore in breach of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide.
In light of this breach, the complainant is afforded ten (10) working days to comment on whether or not sanctions in terms of Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide are appropriate, and if so, which sanctions. After this time, the respondent will be afforded an equal opportunity, after which the Directorate will proceed to consider the issue of sanctions.
The breach allegation is upheld.
It is also noted that this breach occurred in a Caxton publication (Vrouekeur), which is a member of Print and Digital Media South Africa and the Magazine Publishers Association. A copy of this ruling will be sent to both the Magazine Publishers Association as well as to Print and Digital Media South Africa in the hope that this will prevent future lapses in ensuring ASA compliant advertising.