Posted 05 March 2013
A consumer laid a complaint with the ASA against the weight-loss claims being made by Kangmei claiming that there is no proof the product works – beyond a placebo response – and that the company needs to supply proof that this product can benefit consumers.
The company was asked by the ASA to do so, and although gave a long convoluted argument, they were not able to supply any evidence that the product does in fact result in weight-loss in the average consumer using this product.
|Kangmei Slimming Capsules Eyeota Traders / HA Steinman / 20518|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Eyeota Traders cc t/a Leangenie Respondent
28 Feb 2013
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s advertising appearing, inter alia, on its websites, which he lists as www.eyeota.co.za and www.leangenie.co.za.
The websites promote the product as “The most effective slimming aid your will EVER use!” and explains that these capsules “… contain a pure concentrated form of Green tea extract that has been proven to induce rapid weight loss by speeding up the metabolism and burning far”.
Other claims include:
“Together the ingredient have a powerful fat-busting effect on the body, resulting in short-term rapid weight loss, as well as a marked reduction in the abdominal (mid-section) and hip circumferences, in addition, the use of Kangmei promotes a non-rebound effect (meaning that body fat is less likely to return if use is discontinued …”
“Expected weight loss you can achieve: At least 1.5 -3kgs per week. Although amounts in excess of 10kgs in 14 days have been reported, results differ from person to person”
“Increases energy levels”
“Detoxes the body”
“Burns body fat”
“No harmful side-effects”
“No drastic diet plan”
The complainant explained that the respondent is the main importer and distributor, or at least acts on behalf of the distributors. He added that the main ingredient in this product is claimed to be Green Tea, an ingredient that has to date, and despite numerous studies, not been demonstrated to have any weight loss efficacy. The product makes implausible and unsubstantiated weight loss claims. He also mentions that he was unable to find any evidence or proof for the claims listed above. As such, the claims are contrary to the ASA Code, and are made in order to dupe consumers into buying a worthless product.
The additional ingredients listed on the website (vitamins and minerals, Chinese Hawthorn, lotus leaves, poris cocos and chrysanthemum flower) have equally not been able to demonstrate any efficacy insofar as weight loss or the associated claims are concerned.
Given that the claims are misleading and unsubstantiated, the claim “The most effective sliming aid you’ll EVER use!” is also misleading and unsubstantiated.
The complainant outlines the reasons for believing that all additional websites listed in his complaint appear to be related to the agents, who are (in some instances) listed as Corné and Nolene Botha.
Finally, he referred to various other products advertised on some of these websites, and explained that all of them make claims that are not capable of substantiation.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified Clause 4.1 of Section II (Substantiation) as relevant to his complaint.
The respondent denied being associated with or responsible for the following websites and/or email addresses and contact details:
• [email protected]
It added that it is an importer and distributor of various products, but that Kangmei Slimming Capsules is not one of them. It then continues stating that “I am not the OWNER of the product in question; Kangmei Slimming Capsules, I am merely a resale distributor of the product, which I purchase wholesale from a local supplier.”
It further drew attention to the Directorate’s previous ruling (refer Kangmei Slimming Capsules / HA Steinman / 19718 (29 May 2012) for full details), which noted that the websites www.kangmeislimmingcapsules.co.za and www.kangmeislimming.com did not appear to belong to the respondent, and argued that the complainant has again acted in a haphazardly and drafted the complaint in a hurry without checking his facts.
When the Directorate advised that it regards the respondent as the responsible entity insofar as these claims appear on its website, the respondent elaborated on the difficulty in conducting tests for efficacy on such herbal products, the nature and challenges facing this industry, and the fact that it was “… almost positive that [the manufacturer] would not have any ‘scientific’ proof or ‘test results’ to substantiate the great results that overweight people have managed to achieve while taking the product in question”.
It further added that it has “… taken the time to research the list of the ASAs dos and don’ts when it comes to advertising weight loss products, and I am in the process of upgrading our marketing strategy as well as our website to duly comply and I would appreciate any assistance/guidance the ASA is willing to give me to ensure compliance …”
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
At the outset, the Directorate is somewhat perplexed by the respondent’s initial statement that “… we are importers and distributors of various products, the product in question i.e. Kangmei Slimming Capsules, is not one of them …”, which is immediately followed by the statement that it is merely a resale distributor of this product. Given the response in general, it could be assumed that the initial denial of any relationship with this product was perhaps a typographical error. The product clearly appeared on the respondent’s websites (www.leangenie.co.za and www.eyeota.co.za), meaning that the respondent is appropriately regarded as the “advertiser” in terms of the Code.
Similarly, the Directorate is not clear on why the complainant again, and subsequent to the previous ruling in Kangmei Slimming Capsules / HA Steinman / 19718 (29 May 2012) attempts to cast the net as wide as possible, and include more than one advertiser and more than one piece of advertising (not all related) in its complaint.
The previous ruling specifically noted as follows:
“The complainant effectively quotes claims from two websites, submits that he is of opinion that they are unsubstantiated (without explaining why he holds this belief) and alleges that the product is contrary to a number of ASA regulations (which are not identified or referred to).
The Directorate also notes that at least the www.Kangmeislimmingcapsules.co.za and www.Kangmeislimming.com websites do not appear to belong to the respondent, adding to the perception that the complaint was drafted in a haphazard manner.
Accordingly, the Directorate cannot consider these objections at this time”.
The complainant will appreciate that the mere fact that the respondent is selling a product that many other entities are also selling does not mean that these entities are automatically inter-related or vicariously responsible.
The complainant starts out by objecting to the claims appearing on the respondent’s two websites, and then attempts to also incorporate the information obtained on “Corné and Nolene Botha” with no evidence beyond circumstantial similarities to tie the respondent to these distributors.
In addition to this, the complainant again includes the websites www.kangmeislimming.com and www.kangmeislimmingcapsules.co.za despite the Directorate’s previous decision (which was not appealed) that these websites are not affiliated with the respondent.
This is not appropriate, and merely serves to complicate matters and frustrate the Directorate’s adjudication process.
This having been said, the Directorate notes the respondent’s comments that it has “… taken the time to research the list of the ASAs do’s and don’ts when it comes to advertising weight loss products, and I am in the process of upgrading our marketing strategy as well as our website to duly comply and I would appreciate any assistance/guidance the ASA is willing to give me to ensure compliance …”
The ASA has a long-standing principle that affords it the discretion to accept unequivocal undertakings to amend or withdraw advertising as an appropriate resolution to a dispute. This discretion is ordinarily exercised when the withdrawal or amendment would address the complainant’s concerns.
The respondent appears to be in the process of ensuring compliance with the ASA Code with an apparent intent to comply. The Directorate is therefore willing to accept this as an undertaking on the part of the respondent to amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the complainant’s concerns.
This undertaking is therefore accepted on condition that the respondent’s current efficacy claims are withdrawn and appropriately amended within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide. In the case of websites, the deadline for compliance is two weeks.
For the respondent’s guidance, the Directorate specifically draws attention to the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code (which outlines the requirements for substantiation of any direct or implied claims).
Furthermore, the Directorate would like to emphasise that testimonials and anecdotal evidence do not generally amount to proper substantiation.
In addition, the respondent could do well to consider the provisions of Appendix D (previously Appendix E) +which deals specifically with “Advertising for slimming”.
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