Excuse my belligerent tone but I truly am appalled and frustrated that despite numerous complaints, innocent members of the public are still being misled by Live Blood Analysts promoted by Groupon.
In addition to making misleading claims in his advertising, one practitioner, Errol Denton, has even – according to comments made online – been treating customers appallingly, resulting in a ‘mass refund’ from Groupon, as well as an adjudication by the Advertising Standards Authority against the original ad.
One might reasonably expect Groupon to respond by removing the problematic ad and refraining from running a similar promotion again – as they were asked to do by the ASA, who said that “the ad must not appear again in its current form” and that “they should hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation”.
Over a month after adjudication, not only is the ad still appearing in its current form (EDIT 02/12/11 The link now goes to what seems to be a forthcoming deal) but a remarkably similar promotion is running as I type - this time for Stephen Ferguson (who, incredibly, boasts three PhDs and over 200 letters after his name) at his Natural Health Clinic. This latest ad (pictured above) makes similarly dubious claims regarding the supposed suitability of live blood testing to screen for allergies, parasites and nutritional absorption.
Over the last few months, complaints have been made about both these practitioners, by various people, not just to the ASA, but also to Trading Standards. I have even written to the BBC – since Denton is using his 2009 appearance on The One Show to enhance his credibility.
In Denton’s case, the problems go beyond his misleading advertising claims – I have been contacted by three different women, all unhappy customers, all of whom took part in the April Groupon deal. I have also found similar tales of woe regarding this deal on two other websites.
(EDIT 17/10/11 I have now been contacted by five disgruntled customers.)
These comments suggest that people are being treated rudely, are having difficulty redeeming their vouchers and are being encouraged to spend large amounts of money on further consultations without ever having been seen. Perhaps most shockingly, the one correspondent who actually succeeded in undergoing the test came away having been told she had yeast and mould in her blood and with the impression that Denton had implied her test indicated markers for cancer and diabetes.
This is all very upsetting and frustrating. I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall:
- The ASA dropped most of my outstanding Live Blood Analysis complaints due to their unmanageable workload
- Consumer Direct (Trading Standards) did not reply to me when I raised concerns that I believed it was illegal to advertise to treat (or give advice in connection with the treatment of) cancer – and Ferguson was listing ‘cancer’ on his site – among all manner of other conditions. I believe the customer mentioned above also contacted Trading Standards regarding Denton’s apparent implications regarding cancer – but I don’t know the outcome of this.
- The One Show did not get back to me when I raised concerns about Denton’s appearance on the show and his use of this in his advertising (although since this was in 2009 I did not make it an official complaint).
(EDIT 09/01/11 The One Show contacted me in November with a view to making a film about Live Blood Analysis but unfortunately this did not come to be. See comment here.)
Despite all the setbacks, I am not going to give up. I have written to Groupon outlining my concerns and have written back to the ASA over this issue. Because my latest commenter admitted she felt his appearance on The One Show “made him credible” I also intend to contact the BBC again.
I welcome any practical suggestions as to what else can be done – either by commenting below or by contacting me directly.
I will of course report back any interesting developments where possible.
For those who want all the unpleasant details in one place, I have taken the liberty of pasting the unfortunate customers’ comments below.
Read and be appalled…
“I am not one of those people who believes in miracle cures, but after looking at the Live Blood Test website and seeing the offer on Groupon, I thought maybe the blood test could tell me what the dreaded standard allergy test could not and maybe identify potential health issues. I thought that Errol Denton appearing on television made him credible (not sure why I thought that, given that television also brings us the likes of Cheryl Cole and Colleen Rooney…).
Anyway, I really should have known something wasn’t right when the receptionist who gave me the appointments wouldn’t send a written confirmation, and then tried to upgrade my £59 Groupon voucher to a £495 ‘extra nutritional consultation’. I kindly refused and later told my husband it was a bit weird that they were trying to sell me nutritional supplements without even having seen us yet. As I’d bought the vouchers though, I felt I should just attend the appointment despite my concerns.
I booked the appointment in July for 8 October (this past Saturday). We organised the babysitter first thing in the morning and went all the way into Harley Street (we live in Kent, an hour and a half journey). When we got there, we couldn’t even get into 1 Harley Street. No one answered the buzzer at any of the entrances. I knew something was really off when the name plate on the buzzer said Errol Denton with a different company name rather than Live Blood Test. We called both numbers from the Groupon voucher, which went straight to voicemail. No one called back.
I contacted them by email and have received no response. I contacted Groupon and got an email back within the day to apologise and state that Live Blood Test was no longer honouring vouchers and that Groupon would give me a full refund: “I am really sorry that you have not had contact with Live Blood Test. I have investigated this deal and they had cancelled their Groupon offer. A mass refund is being given to all customers. I have now cancelled your Groupons for Live Blood Test and refunded the amount of £118 back to your method of payment. Our partner has already been informed that this Groupon is no longer valid. Please allow up to 5 working days for the payment to clear back to your account.”
Groupon has been very very good in dealing with my problem, but it doesn’t help the fact that Live Blood Test continues to advertise and take bookings. They didn’t even bother to call me to say my appointment was cancelled, which is a basic thing to do with any client appointments.
The moral for me is clear- if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!”
Caroline Ward, 11/10/11
Hi, I was so angry about my whole experience with this crook that I emailed Groupon an account of what happened following the purchase of my ticket and Groupon gave me a full refund!! Its appalling that this guy is still practising, imagine he led me to believe I had cancer and diabetes!! I have since been to a reputable blood analysis called Stephen Ferguson, visit his site, he knows all about Errol’s practices and has had lots of people visiting him after a poor experience with Errol. So sorry to hear what you have been through!! Wendy
Wendy Roberts, 20/07/11
Live Blood Test Harley Street certainly seems like a scam to me too. After paying my money in advance I wasn’t even able to make an appointment and when I finally got through to someone they quickly hung up on me.
I went to see Errol Denton for a Live Blood Analysis on Friday 27th May and it was a total scam. I am appalled and am at a loss of about who I need to complain too. I dont know what body governs his practice. I paid £59.99 through Groupon instead of the £195. I was seen for 15 minutes. Despite them advertising that I would have nutritional testing, allergy testing etc.. all that happened was my blood was taken, he looked at it on a slide and told me he had only seen blood like mine in cancer patients. That my blood is dirty. I have markers for diabetes and I have yeast and mold in my blood. He told me he could clean my blood within 3 months if I used his products. I was traumatised when I left his office. Surely, to imply that someone could have cancer is unacceptable??? I certainly want to report him but I do not know where to start. I have a dictaphone recording of my appointment (which he was unaware of) & I photographed my blood slides with his permission. Can you help? Regards, Wendy
Wendy Roberts, 29/05/11
I purchased a voucher with Groupon for a live blood test at the Harley Clinic in April 2011. After several attempts at contacting the clinic they eventually telephoned me two months later to offer me an appointment. They offered me an appointment at 5.30pm on the very last day that the voucher was valid. When I said that was inconvenient they said that if I upgraded my package for an extra £150 they would be able to fit me in sooner. Without upgrading I could take or leave that appointment. They made it very clear that they had sold more vouchers that they could ever offer appointments, and were focused on booking those people who would be paying for additional services from them.
I called Groupon to notify them that this offer is clearly being used by the Harley Clinic as a scam to entice customers in before putting pressure on them to spend significantly more on additional services. I explained to the customer services manager Kabir that I felt Groupon owed me an apology (after all they have had my money for the last two months) and that this wasn’t the kind of customer service I expected from such a large organisation. He was curt, unhelpful and clearly just wanted to palm me off by offering a refund. For a company that relies on word-of-mouth and is expanding so rapidly, treating customers with such discourtesy is naive.
Sassy 333, (at least 3 months ago)
I completely agree – I’ve tried calling them to book my appointment and just go through to a full mailbox and it says if you’re a voucher holder not to leave a message! Unbelievable scam, it’s not a cheap scam either. I would much rather just have my money back the scumbags.
Has anyone had any joy booking?
Anonymous, ’3 months ago’
I had a similar experience. I have just been hung-up on by their receptionist after simply enquiring why there was no one there (again) after she told me to call back on a tuesday. The email address that they recommend that you use doesn’t work and the whole thing seems like a scam to me. How do I get a refund??
Anonymous, ’2 months ago’
Appauling service, extremely rude receptionist. Couldn’t get an appointment for ages and a poor choice of time was given. I find this company offensive especially considering that it was featured on the BBC.
J Gill, 06/10/11
Live Blood Test Harley Street certainly seems like a scam to me too. After paying my money in advance I wasn’t even able to make an appointment and when I finally got through to someone they rudely & quickly hung up on me.
I had the same issue with them – bought a voucher on Groupon. It took me ages to get through to them, and when I finally did the lady who picked up the phone was absolutely not helpful and rude. She refused to schdule and appointment for me since she was “not responsible” for this. I would never recommend this place to anyone. It’s a scam!
I bought a groupon voucher and followed all the instructions to make a booking and emailed at least 5 times. First 2 replies were mixed 1 liner messages to book online, tried to book online and still have not heard from them in 3 weeks. Other emails were ignored and only get voicemail on the phone. Terrible customer service, got a groupon refund. Dont waste your time with them.