Slender Gel (Hoodia Gel), again!

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Hoodia Slender Gel made bizarre claims for their product, i.e., rubbing gel containing hoodia onto your body will diminish your appetite and therefore result in “massive weight-loss”. The complaint that there was no evidence for this and that not only were the claims invalid, but the name as well. The ASA agreed. The company, instead of admitting that there is NO evidence to support their claims, changed the name of the product to Slender Max. Again the complaint was made that the name of the product was misleading for no proof existed etc, etc. The company changed their name to Hoodia Gel. An allegation of breach of ASA regulations was made. The ASA agreed, a breach of the previous ruling indeed had occurred.

SLENDER GEL / DR H STEINMAN / 13994
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris SteinmanComplainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Planet Hoodia CCRespondent

21 Jun 2010

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5177

On 14 May 2010, the complainant lodged a breach allegation regarding the respondent’s website, which now displays the respondent’s product as, inter alia, “Hoodia GEL”. The complainant submitted that this is a breach of the original ruling of 9 September 2009.

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

Given the breach allegation, Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide (Enforcement of rulings) was taken into account.

RESPONSE

The respondent’s representative, Mr Chris Grindlay, related the history, and submitted that the “Gel” product is made from Hoodia. It feels that its customers need to know this.

He added that the respondent is open to suggestions as to what to call the product.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

Firstly, it should be noted that the ASA Directorate cannot suggest to the respondent what to call its product as this would amount to copy advice, which the ASA is precluded from offering.

The Directorate is therefore tasked with determining whether or not the respondent is in breach of the previous ASA Directorate ruling. The complainant’s contention was that the respondent has now changed the name to “Hoodia GEL” despite this being ruled against.

The original ruling of 9 September 2009 recorded that the respondent “has gone through a dramatic rebranding exercise to change the name of the product” and that “The new name no longer reflects the word ‘Hoodia’ as part of the product name”. The Directorate ruled “The respondent’s undertaking appears to address the complainant’s concerns …” and that it was “… accepted on condition that the packaging in question is not used again in future …”

There can be no doubt that the practical implication of this ruling was that the respondent could no longer, in terms of its own undertaking, use or refer to Hoodia in the product name.

The Directorate visited the respondent’s website on 15 June 2010 and noticed that images of packaging of the respondent’s products still contained references to the word “Hoodia” in the product name.

While the Directorate accepts that the respondent is somewhat “caught between a rock and a hard place”, the implications of the previous rulings cannot be ignored. The respondent’s packaging is again making prominent use of the word “Hoodia” on its product name in clear contradiction of its previous undertaking.

Accordingly, the respondent’s use of the name “Hoodia” is in contravention of the Directorate ruling of 9 September 2009 and therefore in breach of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide.

The breach complaint is upheld.

In light of this breach, the complainant who 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 in terms of Clause 14.6 of the Procedural Guide.

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