A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Boots carries on promoting quackery despite the ASA

It’s now been almost seven months since Boots was the target of 240 Advertising Standards Authority complaints by myself and others.

I didn’t blog on the outcome at the time; so, here’s a quick catch-up. Once approached by the ASA and asked for evidence, Boots decided to avoid an embarrassing ASA adjudication against them by agreeing to remove the claims.

I checked the Boots web site shortly after this and found the situation hadn’t seemed to improve. In many cases, Boots had not removed the claims, but simply taken away the 3 for the price of 2 offer.

If you remember, the ASA will not adjudicate against claims made upon websites (not until March 1st). But, they will adjudicate against claims made as a part of a promotion wherever they appear. By removing quack products from the 3 for 2 offer, Boots simply side-stepped the claims outside the ASA’s remit.

So what’s the situation now? Well in many cases, Boots has removed the claims completely. In other cases though, they’ve reduced the misleading text but carried on making essentially the same point, or at least carried on implying it. Surprisingly, some of the claims are still sitting there in full with the 3 for the price of 2 offer displayed prominently on the page.

My favourite quack product was what can only be referred to as a “fanny magnet”, what sadly what Boots refers to as a “Ladycare menopause relief magnet”. By simply clipping it to your panties, Boots originally claimed it can help to “reduce or completely eliminate symptoms of menopause”. They’ve now removed this precise claim but are still making essentially the same point. They still call it a “menopause relief magnet”, there’s still a photo of it claiming it’s “the most exciting discovery for menopause”, and there’s a list on the photo of symptoms claiming it’s all you may need for everything from hot flushes to vaginal dryness. They’ve side-stepped the ASA by simply taking it out of the 3 for 2 offer.

Shockingly, Boots is still making implying effectiveness for two forms of homeopathic teething relief. Boots’ own brand “Teething Pain Relief - 24 sachets” makes its claims in the title. And their “Nelsons Teetha” product is apparently “a homeopathic remedy specially designed for the soothing and calming relief of the symptoms of teething”. The product photo contains the phrases "Teething Granules", "Teething and pain relief" and "Soothes and calms".

Overall, Boots has improved since the last complaint. A lot of claims have been removed.

Today, I reported Boots to ASA a second time for 5 separate products. I’m hoping this time the ASA will adjudicate and Boots will finally clean up their act.


Anonymous said...

Seems that its not quackery as you put it because it works for some people. See Daily Mail and Belinda Carlisle Not everything works on everyone the same.

Simon said...

So if 100 people use a device, and one of them just happens to get better does that mean "it worked for that person"? What about those that got worse? Was the device to blame then too?

Normally I prefer clinical trials or meta analyses published in peer-reviewed journals, but a Belinda Carlisle anecdote published by the Daily Mail, well...