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

Wednesday 9 February 2011

What to do about Boots.

Important Update

Boots have now removed all claims regarding menopause treatment from the website after a complaint was made to the ASA. However, the product is still for sale online and almost certainly in store. The claims are still being made on the product packaging.

Let's continue the pressure until Boots stop making these claims.

In your complaint to Trading Standards you should mention:
  • Boots have removed the claims from their website after a complaint to the ASA (not sure if it was because of this complaint)
  • Boots have edited the product photo so that the claims stated on the packaging are taken outside the ASA's remit
  • However, the claims are still being made on the packaging itself when seen in store.


If you've signed up to the pledge to complain to Trading Standards about Boots selling quack medical products, thank you. Boots has an agreement with Nottingham Trading Standards so all complaints about Boots are processed there. However, you should complain to your local Trading Standards body rather than the Nottingham one and allow them to forward it.

The initial complaints will be for Boots’ “Menopause relief magnet”. This was chosen because we believe it should be easy for Trading Standards to do something about it. If we are successful we can send them a claim that’s a little more difficult to understand.

When should I complain?

At the bottom of this post, I’ve copied and pasted a list of names and dates. Please look up your name to find your date. If you’re not on the list (some people subscribed anonymously, or after I copied the list) then please complain immediately.

Please put a reminder in your calendar for that day. You can copy this text to make it easy:

Complain to Trading Standards about Boots Quackery

Before you complain, please check that Boots is still selling the product. If not, let Simon know immediately and we’ll see if they are making other misleading claims.

Don't forget to leave a comment on Simon's blog to say you've done it.

What to mention in your complaint

You can make a complaint to Trading Standards with one paragraph (please don’t use this exact text):
“I saw this product in Boots saying it relieves the symptoms of the menopause. I think this isn't right and I want to complain about it.”
However, there are a number of things you can mention to strengthen your complaint:
  • You are complaining under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Under these regulations, it is up to the seller to provide evidence for any claims they make, rather than up to the Trading Standards body to prove the claims wrong.
  • As a Trading Standards body it is their duty to enforce the Consumer Protection Regulations.
  • Where you saw the claims being made. This may be online, but if you happen to be near a Boots, pop in and see if they’ve got one in store and complain about that.
  • Precisely quote any dodgy claims that you find on adverts, websites, packaging or photos of packaging and state that you do not believe they are backed up by robust evidence.
  • Reference the evidence for/against efficacy.
  • Why are you doing this? If it’s to protect the public from misleading medical claims then say so.
What evidence is there for using magnets to reduce the symptoms of menopause?

There are only two relevant articles I could find on PubMed, neither were trials.

They recommend "Single clinical trials have found no benefit for dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, a Chinese herbal mixture, acupuncture, or magnet therapy."

In a box labelled "Approach to management of menopausal symptoms" states:
"Homeopathy, magnetic therapy, reflexology, dong quai, ginsing, evening primrose oil and vitamin E have not been demonstrated to be clinically significant compared with placebo."

and within "Non-hormonal options"
"Magnetic therapy: no benefit"
Within a section titled "Homeopathy, magnet therapy & foot reflexology" it states
"In RCTs, neither homeopathic remedies, magnet therapy, nor foot reflexology out-performed placebo in relieving menopausal symptoms."

How do I submit my complaint?

There are several ways to complain. Firstly, the easy way is to use the online form here. The submission will go via Consumer Direct, but that’s fine. There is a limit on the amount of text you can enter.

Secondly, you can contact your local trading standards direct with either an email or a letter. Their contact details can be found by entering your postcode on the form at the bottom of this page.

What about Libel?

Complaints to Trading Standards are protected from libel action, so you can make clear accusations without risk. Avoid saying anything in public and you should be risk free. Boots would be incredibly foolish to proceed with libel action.

Can I make my complaint more powerful?

Most Trading Standards offices prioritise complaints based upon two factors: how many complaints have they received, and how many people have actually lost money. If you buy a magnet, you’d have a more effective complaint.

You certainly don’t need to do this however.

Details of names & dates below:

Simon Perry 08 February 2011
Dr Michael A Ward 09 February 2011
Danny Strickland 10 February 2011
Dr Tom Williamson 11 February 2011
Richard Stelling 12 February 2011
Johnnie Shannon 13 February 2011
Chris Sexton 14 February 2011
Ian Scott 15 February 2011
Chris Richardson 16 February 2011
Mike Conradi 17 February 2011
Dr Martin Poulter 18 February 2011
Steve Page 19 February 2011
Dr Stephen Southward 20 February 2011
Mandeep Smith 21 February 2011
Dr Stuart Nicholl 22 February 2011
Steve Haigh 23 February 2011
Simon Stanford 24 February 2011
Richard Tomsett 25 February 2011
Marianne Baker 26 February 2011
Jo Hockey 27 February 2011
Rhys Morgan 28 February 2011
Dale Williams 01 March 2011
Jon Pearson 02 March 2011
Giles Wendes 03 March 2011
Conor Pendergrast 04 March 2011
Steve leigh 05 March 2011
Dr Wendy Cousins 06 March 2011
Alan Henness 07 March 2011
Mike Hall 08 March 2011
Nicola Woolhouse 09 March 2011
Gordon Wilson 10 March 2011
Darren Starck 11 March 2011
Martijn ter Borg 12 March 2011
Darren Griffin 13 March 2011
Rebecca O'Neill 14 March 2011
Paul Buckland-White 15 March 2011
B Corcoran 16 March 2011
Dan-Raoul Miranda 17 March 2011
Michael Marshall 18 March 2011
Ralf Neugebauer 19 March 2011
Jo Brodie 20 March 2011
L Pedley 21 March 2011
Ashley Frieze 22 March 2011
Sharon Smiles 23 March 2011
James Thomas 24 March 2011
Wesley perry 25 March 2011
Simon Danaher 26 March 2011
Doogie Brodie 27 March 2011
Sah Winstone 28 March 2011
Dr Cara Laney 29 March 2011
Stew Wilson 30 March 2011
Kash Farooq 31 March 2011
Sid Rodrigues 01 April 2011
David Hughes 02 April 2011
Peter Harrison 03 April 2011
Trish Hann 04 April 2011
Patrick Redmond 05 April 2011
Adam Timberley 06 April 2011
Paul Berry 07 April 2011
caroline panico 08 April 2011
James Lipscombe 09 April 2011
Emma Smith 10 April 2011
Tulpesh Patel 11 April 2011
RobertPettifer 12 April 2011
Tim Reid 13 April 2011
Jane Symons 14 April 2011
Alexandra Beuchert 15 April 2011
Tom Marinan 16 April 2011
Kevin Rose 17 April 2011
Prof Stephen Curry 18 April 2011
Hannah Haines 19 April 2011
Andy Stoker 20 April 2011
David Noble 21 April 2011
Sven Rudloff 22 April 2011
Dr J J Grattage 23 April 2011
Olivia Vinden 24 April 2011
Tony Mansfield 25 April 2011
Julia Matheson 26 April 2011
Bethan Jade McIlroy 27 April 2011
Michelle Goodger 28 April 2011
Dan Sutton 29 April 2011
Sandra hoare 30 April 2011
steven lindsay 01 May 2011
Dawn Mason 02 May 2011
Leo Donnelly 03 May 2011
James Cole 04 May 2011
Sean Ellis 05 May 2011
Stephen Griffin 06 May 2011
Elaine Pickering 07 May 2011
Alastair Grant 08 May 2011
Kevin Lowis 09 May 2011
Dominic Brown 10 May 2011
Jo Thornely 11 May 2011
Julie Williams 12 May 2011
Ms Jane Robinson 13 May 2011
Alan Wellstead 14 May 2011
Karelle Menochet 15 May 2011
Jere Koskela16 May 2011
stephen hughes17 May 2011
Audrey Johnson18 May 2011
Jamie Woolley19 May 2011
Dr Richard Morley20 May 2011
Vikki Hurst21 May 2011
Donald MacCormick22 May 2011
Matthew Hardy23 May 2011
Alan Bird24 May 2011
Ben Harris25 May 2011
Tim Bennett26 May 2011


Simon said...

I've done it.

mconradi said...

I can't do it on my allocated day - i'm on holiday. Should i do it today (Wednesday) or would you rather i waited until the end?

Mike Conradi

Anonymous said...

Excellent. I'm looking forward to my turn.

I'm trying to persuade mum to take part to. She's keen to have a crack at the breast screening lamps.

Dan Sutton

Tom Carter said...

I've done it (I was one of the anon's). Also if anyones wondering about boots address (for the 2nd sections), its:

Section 2:
Name of Trader: Boots UK Limited
Address: 1 Thane Road West
Town or City: Nottingham
County: Nottinghamshire
Postcode: NG2 3AA
Telephone Number: 0115 918 2000
Trader's website address: http://www.boots-uk.com
Trader's email address: [Leave blank]

Unknown said...

Si, Ihve signed up but I'm not on the list. Can you had me for the following day at the bottom of the list please?


mconradi said...

As discussed with you Simon i can't make my date so have done it now.

Here's the text of my complaint. Note that Boots may well actually be committing an offence.

"I am writing to complain about the "Ladycare menopause relief magnet" available from Boots online as well, I understand, as in their shops. You can find details here:

As you can see from the website the product makes various claims including that it has been "shown to be helpful". The packaging of the product also says that it is "all you may need" for a list of ailments including weight loss.

I doubt very much that there is any evidence at all that this magnet can have any impact at all or be helpful for anything in any way (except perhaps picking up small iron objects).

Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Regulations 2008 unfair commercial practices, including misleading actions, are prohibited (regulation 3) and under regulation 5 a practice is misleading if it contains false information (including as to the benefits of a product). Under regulation 9 misleading practices like this are in fact an offence.

Under retgulation 149 every "enforcement authority" has a duty to enforce these regulations.

With all this in mind and in order to protect the public from spending money on products on the basis of false information I'd ask you please to investigate Boots' actions and to take appropriate action.

I look forward to hearing the outcome.


Mike Conradi"

Paul said...

This piqued my interest not just everyone knows Boots but because the history of the company is inextricably linked to my employer, Nottingham University. It will be my first ever complaint to Trading Standards, but unlikely to my last.

Anonymous said...

"You are complaining under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Regulations 2008"

Have drafted my email this evening and noticed that "Trading" was missing from the above quote.

Simon said...

@jdc325 Thanks, fixed. We do need some sort of protection from unfair regulations though.

writerJames said...

I think I reflexively unchecked the thing about publicly sharing my details, I hadn't thought that might mess things up. D'oh. Anyway, I'll get onto this ASAP and let you know.

Tom Williamson said...


writerJames said...

Done! And that'll give me something to blog about tonight, too.

Ethel Phlange said...

You skeptics say these magnets don’t work for menopausal symptoms. Have you actually tried them? It has worked so well for me that I now do not sweat at all at night. Unfortunately this causes me to overheat and last night I actually spontaneously combusted. Luckily it has also fixed my vaginal dryness so I did not completely burn away.

Unknown said...

Done mine

Johnnie said...


@christheneck said...


Anonymous said...

Day late, but I've done mine.

Unknown said...

Anyone else had a reply? I got the following, so looks like all complaints will be passed to Bristol

Dear Dr. Sexton,

I have been passed your enquiry regarding the Ladycare product you saw in Boots.

In Trading Standards, the local sevice where the company is based normally takes responsibility for offering advice and assistance to business. Ladycare Lifetime Ltd has a head office in Bristol.

I appreciate your concerns regarding their claim and I have passed your enquiry to them for their information. They may contact you if they require any further information.

Yours sincerely,
Trading Standards Enforcement Officer

Simon said...


Interesting the they're taking on the company direct rather than Boots.

raetsel said...

I've gone off a little prematurely but I don't think a human will actually read my email complaint to Birmingham Trading Standards until the 24th as it is nearly bedtime

Steve Haigh said...

Done it. "Medline and Embase searches prove that there is no valid evidence that magnets have any effect for any of these claims. It is unethical to mislead people in this way, taking their money and giving them false hope."

Boots pi55 me off. Don't tar all us pharmacists with Boots' cynical exploitation of the naiive. Just tar most of them... and feather them.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the 29th of April, reminder set, waiting to see if we are changing targets.

Dan Sutton

Jo said...

I shall do mine in 18 days but also wanted to say hello to Doogie Brodie :)

Word verification: crunturg (!)

Richard said...

Sent mine via consumer direct just now. Sorry I missed my allocated date, email fail :/

jo said...

Done! A few days late, sorry.

Steve Haigh said...

I've had a reply from Nottinghamshire county council's 'Understanding Demand Unit' saying they have to prioritise and they'll keep it on file for future reference blah blah... So, just as Simon said, we have to make sure the volume of complaints is high enough to make them take Boots' widespread cynical exploitation of the naive public seriously.

Unknown said...

Done mine.

Unknown said...

...and Consumer Direct have confirmed they have passed it on to Trading Standards...

Conor Pendergrast said...

Done now and on the correct day and all!

Zeno said...

Done! What do you mean it's way past midnight??? :-)

Johnnie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Johnnie said...

Response from Leicester Trading Standards. Interesting that they seem to think that the onus of proof is on them to say something doesn't work, rather than on the manufacturer. Good that she passed it on to Nottingham TS and they in turn to Bristol. Here's what she said:

I am afraid I mis-spelt your email originally so it bounced back, but since sending it I have received a call from Nottinghamshire Trading Standards who say they have received a number of similar enquiries and have forwarded the enquiries to Bristol where the manufacturer is, for the Trading Standards there to raise with them.

Further to your emailed complaint about the claims relating to the above product, I have looked on the web site and note at present it is out of stock and also that the claims made are, as is usual, tempered with the words "MAY". It would on an enforcement level be difficult to prove that this product does not do as claimed as it may well help some people and we would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it does not meet any of its claims at all. (Unfortunately it is down to us to prove it is wrong rather than the trader to prove it is right).
I have however forwarded your complaint to Nottinghamshire Trading Standards who act as Boots Home Authority Trading Standards Service, for their information.
It is up to them whether they feel there is a potential breach of the Consumer Protection Regulations and they may raise it with Boots as to what evidence they can provide to substantiate the claims made.
There are thousands of these borderline type products available and Trading Standards does not have the resources to question the complete accuracy of some of the claims made unless they are grossly and obviously misleading.
Personally I cannot see how this product could work but the power of suggestion is huge and there has been a growing belief in the efficacy of magnets in some circumstances.
Also the product is available from many chemists and health stores other than Boots and all are careful with the description applied.
I am sorry if this does not go as far as you would have hoped.
However,thank you for your complaint.
Trading Standards Officer
Leicester City Council

Nic said...

I sent my initial complaint on my date of the 9th March to my local Trading Standards office as suggested but their response was to contact Consumer Direct. So I emailed them back to confirm if they had dealt with my complaint, but they hadn't and advised I contact the ASA. So I have submitted my complaint again today to the ASA via their online form. I got there in the end.

Marsh said...

Just done it now! Got an immediate reply saying the email had been quarantined as it contained blocked words. My fault for including 'Vagina dryness' in my complaint, I suppose. Still, will get it through, vagina reference intact! Especially with all of this Nigerian gold and V1agr1 I have to sell them...

Jimbobthomas said...

Compliant regarding Boots in Farnham posted today as requested.

Anonymous said...

complained today online as requested.

Tim Reid said...

Done today:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to complain under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 about a product on sale in Boots.

The product is the "Ladycare Menopause Relief Magnet" and the packaging makes claims that I believe are unsupported by good evidence.

The packaging states:
"All you may need for:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Restful sleep
- Weight loss
- Less bloating
- Increased energy
- Vagina dryness"

In the "Frequently asked questions" section of the product's webpage it is asserted:

"LadyCare has shown to be helpful and used by thousands of women."

There is no positive evidence for the efficacy of magnetic treatment of menopausal symptoms in PubMed, and indeed two articles highlight that there have been negative findings:

Treatment of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms: position statement of The North American Menopause Society.

I quote "Single clinical trials have found no benefit for dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, a Chinese herbal mixture, acupuncture, or magnet therapy."

Advances in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/pdf/10.2217/whe.09.31

The box labelled "Approach to management of menopausal symptoms" says:

"Homeopathy, magnetic therapy, reflexology, dong quai, ginsing, evening primrose oil and vitamin E have not been demonstrated to be clinically significant compared with placebo."

and the under "Non-hormonal options"

"Magnetic therapy: no benefit"

Also under "Homeopathy, magnet therapy & foot reflexology"

"In RCTs, neither homeopathic remedies, magnet therapy, nor foot reflexology out-performed placebo in relieving menopausal symptoms."

I have seen the product for sale online here http://www.boots.com/en/Ladycare-menopause-relief-magnet_122270/

I note that since I first saw the product Boots have doctored the image and information for the product on their website to hide these unsupported claims.

I hope that Trading Standards will fulfil its duty to enforce the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Regulations 2008, particularly regulation 27 which requires proof of accuracy of a factual claim. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2008/1277/regulation/27/made

I've not suffered personally from this ineffective product, as I'm a 37 year old man, and not a menopausal woman. However I write as a concerned citizen disgusted that Boots - an ostensibly reputable business - should be happily promoting bogus treatments. Weasel words on the packaging such as "may" belie the implication of effectiveness. I do not believe for one moment that a consumer will give much thought to the difference between "all you need" and "all you may need". The implication of this one ineffective product being all someone may need fails the consumer who might otherwise opt to use well evidenced and effective treatments for their condition.

Thank you for your time in investigating this issue.

Best wishes

Tim Reid

Stephen Curry said...

Reporting for duty, saaah!

Letter sent by way of Consumer Direct at 08:28 hrs on Mon 18th April, saaah!

Anonymous said...

Mine is sent - Andy Stoker

Anonymous said...

Just sent mine online - a day ahead, but I don't think it will matter, given it's the Easter break. -Sven

Sean Ellis said...



Boots the Chemists (Boots UK Ltd.) are continuing to offer for sale a product called the "Ladycare menopause relief magnet", which claims to offer relief from various symptoms of menopause. According to my understanding, these medical claims are without basis.

Details of the claims made for the magnet were previously available at http://www.boots.com/en/Ladycare-menopause-relief-magnet_122270/ but this has now been edited to remove them. They still exist on the packaging of the device, however.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Regulations 2008 regulates unfair commercial practices, and I believe that the claims made may fall under the definition of "misleading actions", prohibited under regulation 3. It may also fall foul of regulation 5, in that a practice is misleading if it contains false information. I believe that regulation 9 makes misleading practices like these an offence.

I would therefore ask you to investigate the selling of this device by Boots UK Ltd. and whether it falls foul of the regulations above (or indeed any others).

Thanks in advance for your time.

Sean Ellis.

Elaine said...

Done. Complaint submitted to Warwickshire Trading Standards by direct email.

Elaine said...

Having submitted my email directly to the address given for Warwickshire Trading Standards I've been redirected to Consumer Direct after all. Been trying to submit my complaint using their form but I'm having problems. I understand the text limit, but however much text I delete, the excess character count only reduces by single figures! At this rate I'll have to delete nearly all of it. So annoying. I spent a good chunk of yesterday constructing my email. Has anyone else had this problem?

Elaine said...

Right. Had to do a real hatchet job on my message but I finally managed to submit it with 3 characters to spare. I need a cup of tea now.

Josephine Jones said...

I have just submitted my complaint to Consumer Direct. I am also about to complain to the ASA about the same misleading claims in relation to this product appearing on the Lloyds Pharmacy website.

Ben Harris said...

Submitted my complaint yesterday, as per the list of dates.

Just had a phone call from Consumer Direct, saying they would pass my email on to Trading Standards.

Noodle said...

Done :)
Vikki x