As I was away last week, I’m considering adjudications from both today and last Wednesday (27th April).
I’m dismayed to see several instances of companies continuing to make misleading claims online after having adjudications against them. It could be that they are using a foreign website, a slightly different website to that complained about, or that the original complaint was not about online advertising.
For example, Pressplay Ltd ran a national press ad for the Airganix Air purifier, which they claimed ‘will effectively improve air quality by removing odours including pet and cooking odours, pollutants such as dust and cigarette smoke, and allergens including tree and flower pollen’. The ad also stated ‘BI-POLAR IONISATION HOW DOES IT WORK? Bi-Polar Ionisation is the process of emitting electrical energy to ionise and oxidise (electrically charge) air molecules. The charged molecules will then form clusters with airborne particles effectively reducing these solid contaminants from the indoor air’.
According to this week’s adjudications, a complainant challenged whether the efficacy claims were misleading and could be substantiated and after taking expert advice, the ASA concluded that the ad must not appear again in its current form. But look here, where the same statements appear word for word.
Last week, there were two health related adjudications that again were notable in that misleading claims are still appearing on company websites.
Dr Batra’s Positive Health Clinic have had a complaint upheld for, in an ad in the regional press, calling themselves ‘Dr’ in the company name, referring to themselves as ‘expert doctors’ and implying they can treat psoriasis with homeopathy. They still appear to be doing all that here but the parent company (and presumably therefore the website) is based outside the UK. (UPDATE: The complainant has blogged about this here.)
The Maperton Trust have been told to remove all claims that their product (the Headlice Repelling Unit or HELRU) can repel headlice from their website. If you follow my first link, you will find that do seem to have done just that. However, if you Google the company name, you find this. (EDIT: the Maperton headlice site has now been taken down so the links no longer work – though I still have screenshots for posterity.)
The HELRU device itself appears simply to be a badge with a picture of a unicorn on it, retailing at £19.99. I checked the FAQs to see if they suggest any mechanism by which it might work and there was indeed a question relating to this. Their answer, and I quote, was ‘without a comprehensive understanding of technology e.g. that used in space travel, it is not really possible to provide a very satisfactory answer’.
They do however have plenty of testimonials and even what is laughably described as a ‘trial report’ at an unnamed Dorset primary school. They don’t give much information about this ‘trial’. The graph shown is so poorly labelled it isn’t even clear what they were counting… Is it a total of lice on all the heads? Or a mean number of lice per head? Is it even lice at all? We can only guess. According to what labelling there is, there were seventy (things?) before and also after twelve weeks. And yet whereas the ‘start’ bar correspondingly depicts seventy, the ‘end’ bar shows less than ten. Whatever it means, it does seem despite the data (‘seventy’ and ‘seventy’) to indicate a big drop in whatever it is we are guessing at.
I believe primary school children are capable of far better science and maths than this. For example, according to the National Curriculum for Key Stage 2, pupils should be taught to ‘represent and interpret discrete data using graphs and diagrams, including pictograms, bar charts and line graphs’. It’s a bit of a worry if (as appears to be the case) the teacher can’t even label a simple bar chart.
It also appears the teachers are lacking an understanding of the scientific method and its importance. Incidentally, I feel strongly about science in primary schools and in fact recently wrote to my MP asking her to support EDM 243 relating to Science in schools (part of which urges the Government to ensure that ‘all schools teach and promote science and the scientific method’).
I am of course not suggesting pupils study head lice and carry out related trials as part of the National Curriculum. I believe my own children’s school have the right approach in that they always inform all parents when there is a reported case (without naming and shaming). They also urge parents and carers to treat the whole family and recheck heads regularly. They would not, needless to say, suggest a magic badge as a suitable treatment.
For these reasons it isn’t surprising the Dorset primary school remains anonymous.
There were a few informally resolved complaints as well. There isn’t any information given about these but it is of particular note that the following appear in the list: Boots UK Ltd, therelaxfactor, The Village Osteopathic Clinic and Trinity Chiropractic Ltd t/a Life Chiropractic. With the exception of the Village Osteopathic Clinic, whose website is (perhaps coincidentally) ‘under development’, the complaints were all in relation to internet advertising.