Posted 24 August 2013
Arcadia Home Shopping appears to be an untrustworthy company for this is not the first time they have made claims for a product that were false and could not be supported by proof. In this complaint, a consumer argued that the claims being made for Vita Aid PH Balance are false: “The complainant elaborated on why these claims are untrue, illogical and in some instances contradictory. He also referred to previous instances where the Directorate ruled against such claims made by another advertiser, arguing that there is little likelihood that this advertiser will have evidence to make such claims.”
23 Aug 2013
Mr Charleston lodged a consumer complaint against an advertisement featured in the Sunday Times newspaper during March 2013.
The advertisement is headed “Do you get sick often? Do you feel tired all the time?”
The copy then states, inter alia, that:
“Your body is probably too acidic. The answer to your well-being could be as simple as balancing the ph level in your body and managing your acidity.
So why is it so important to balance my body’s Ph level?
Think of a swimming pool. Like a swimming pool, our bodies need a slightly alkaline Ph to sparkle. When a swimming pool goes green with algae, the water has too much acidity. When a pool is in this acidic state, a vicious cycle develops. More organisms and bacteria grow, which in turn produces more acid.
Likewise, too much acidity makes your body prone to disease. Your immune response is slower and harmful organisms grow faster.”
Some of the other claims referred to and disputed by the complainant are:
“Our bodies consist of 60% water. To be healthy, that water needs to be in a slightly alkaline state”;
“… effectively speeding up your body’s immune response rate and packing a punch with loads of new-found energy!”
“… Vita Aid pH Balance fights acidity in the body. It helps to balance your body’s pH level, by correcting extreme acidic states commonly associated with gout, diabetes and arthritis”;
“Increase Rate Of Acid Secretion (visible on the product-packaging shown in the advertisement);
“Alkalinise The Blood” (visible on the product-packaging shown in the advertisement); and
“Increase Blood Flow Rate”.
The complainant elaborated on why these claims are untrue, illogical and in some instances contradictory. He also referred to previous instances where the Directorate ruled against such claims made by another advertiser, arguing that there is little likelihood that this advertiser will have evidence to make such claims.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified the following clauses of the Code as relevant and applicable:
• Section I, Clause 4.25 – Definitions (Scientific substantiation)
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
The respondent submitted that its supplier is in the process of conducting clinical trials on the product. It has therefore taken the decision to “…withdraw the Vita Aid pH Balance advertisement … in the format that Mr Charleston complained about …”
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.
As the respondent’s undertaking refrain from using the advertisement addresses the complainant’s concerns, there is no need for the Directorate to consider the merits of the matter at this time.
The undertaking is therefore accepted on condition that the advertising is withdrawn in its current format within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide, and is not used again in future.
The respondent’s attention is specifically drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively requires it to withdraw the advertising and/or claims at issue from wherever they appear, irrespective of the fact that the complaint was only lodged against one media.
The respondent is also reminded that the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code call for unequivocal verification from an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. Such verification needs to relate to the claims used in the advertising, and needs to relate to the product as a whole, when taken at the recommended dose.