Legal, decent, honest and truthful

asaIn the UK, advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. WDDTY’s advertisements have a bit of a problem here.

Fortunately, the Advertising Standards Authority have produced a series of handy guides for advertisers of SCAM, while Jo Brodie has helpfully posted the following useful information:

It [is] the Committee of Advertising Practice who set the guidelines that the Advertising Standards Authority uses in determining if marketing and advertising material are OK, or not. Since a large number of complaints are made about misleading websites promoting alternative or complementary health treatments the section on ‘Therapies’ is now quite extensive, reproduced below.

I like to think of this as a handy list of itemised nonsense. It is not illegal to sell any of these treatments, as far as I’m aware, but it is not fair to make claims for them that cannot be defended.

In each there are two aspects to consider (1) health-condition-specific concerns and (2) treatment-specific evidence.

(1) Health-condition-specific concerns
If an advertiser is making claims about treating really serious health conditions (asthma, cancer, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure etc) but isn’t medically trained themselves or doesn’t have access to a doctor in their clinic then the ASA is more immediately concerned about the customer not having appropriate medical care. The evidence for the actual therapy becomes a secondary concern in this situation. The ASA has also expressed concern if it thinks that customers may be discouraged from seeking appropriate medical care.

(2) Treatment-specific evidence
This covers all the claims that are made for the treatment and the ASA appear to want ‘robust evidence’ – generally the sort of thing that’s published in peer-reviewed journals, ideally a meta-analysis of smaller trials. Evidence from individual small trials is more of a compass bearing than an agreement that you’re in a particular place and not generally seen as robust, it depends on the study of course. Testimonials don’t count.

Full alphabetic index: AdviceOnline index
Searchable index: AdviceOnline database

The relevant T section including all therapies currently listed, I added Testimonials as a bonus.

Thanks, Jo! So now WDDTY’s advertisers will have a quick reference to check what they may and may not claim. And of course this is doubly important now that Trading Standards have become ASA’s legal backstop, making it dramatically easier for ASA to take enforcement action against non-compliant advertisers.

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