Posted 03 June 2013
A consumer lodged a complaint against Miracle Comfrey’s website advertisement promoting Miracle Comfrey products on the premise that it is a product capable of healing “…áll skin problems!” [sic] and often results in miraculous healing. The consumer argued that there is no proof that this is true (and scientifically improbable!) The ASA agreed for the company could not supply any evidence to support of their claims.
|Miracle Comfrey 3 / K Charleston / 20880|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Kevin Charleston Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
First Impression Promotions cc Respondent
30 May 2013
Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s website advertisement promoting Miracle Comfrey products on the premise that it is a product capable of healing “…áll skin problems!” [sic] and often results in miraculous healing.
Some of the conditions claimed to be treatable with this product include “All kinds of wounds and sores, acne, allergies, arthritis and rheumatism, athlete’s foot, bedsores, blemishes, blisters, blood circulation, blue bottle stings, boils and abscesses, bruises, bunions, burns, calluses, chickenpox, corns, cracked skin, eczema, fever blisters, fractures, gangrene, infections, inflammation, insect bites/stings, itching, muscle injuries, lip problems, nappy rash, piles, psoriasis, rashes, ringworm, scar tissue (prevention), seborrhea [sic], shaver’s rash, skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma), sprains, sunburn, swelling, ulcers, varicose veins, etc.”
The website also contains various “before” and “after” type photographs and user testimonials.
The complainant’s original complaint did not properly explain the basis for alleging that the advertiser has breached the Code. When asked for clarity, he submitted a redrafted complaint (dated 21 October 2012), which was sent to the advertiser for comment.
The complainant effectively argued that the advertisement makes unsubstantiated claims that this product is able to treat and heal all skin problems, which is not possible and cannot be claimed. He added that the constant reference to supernatural healing ability is exploiting people’s superstitions and/or beliefs, which is not permitted in terms of the Code.
In addition to this, the complainant noted that Comfrey is poisonous when taken orally, which resulted in the Department of health banning it in any teas or foodstuffs in 2003. The point was made that the advertising claims that “the base cream is prescribed liberally by dermatologists” is highly unlikely, given that comfrey poses potential safety and health risks.
Finally, the claim is explicitly made that the product is safe, yet the complainant’s research suggests that this is not the case if applied to broken skin, or used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is also not advisable to use comfrey on a child’s skin, yet the advertiser promotes this as a treatment for nappy rash, which is unsafe.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified the following clauses of the Code as relevant:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
• Section III, Clause 29 – Exploitation of superstition or beliefs
The respondent submitted “… We are satisfied that this product has helped our family and so many people. I use the product personal [sic] and have never had a problem. People are entitled to their opinion and rightfully so.”
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
At the outset, it is noted that the respondent submitted no evidence of any of the claims, and merely stated that “… We are satisfied that this product has helped our family and so many people …”
Clause 4.1 of Section II expressly requires advertisers to hold in their possession documentary evidence for any and all direct or implied claims that are capable of objective verification.
In essence, the products promoted on the respondent’s website are touted as being able to cure various diseases and conditions. Such claims are not only expressly made, but further reinforced by testimonials and photographic examples. The website further claims that the product is safe, and that it base component is liberally recommended by dermatologists. Despite pertinently disputing this and alleging that the respondent is making untrue claims, the respondent has not answered any of the allegations.
In the absence of any evidence of any kind, the Directorate has no option but to find that the advertising and relevant claims highlighted by the complainant is unsubstantiated and in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
The respondent is required to withdraw the advertising at issue,
The respondent is required to take immediate action upon receipt of this ruling,
The respondent is required to ensure that it has affected the withdrawal of the relevant advertising within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and
The respondent may not use the advertising again in its current format unless adequate substantiation has been submitted and accepted by way of a new Directorate ruling (refer Clause 4.1.7 of Section II of the Code).
The complaint is accordingly upheld, and it is not necessary to consider the other clauses identified by the complainant at this time.
The respondent’s attention is also drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which require it to remove its advertising from any and all media in which it may appear, irrespective of the fact that this complaint only referred to the respondent’s website.