British Advertising Standards Authority
Adjudication on College of Naturopathic Medicine (2013)

The College of Naturopathic Medicine Ltd
Bulrushes Farm
Coombe Hill Road
East Grinstead
West Sussex
RH19 4LZ

Date: 13 March 2013
Media: Internet (on own site)
Sector: Health and Beauty
Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: A12-205099

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.

Ad

A Naturopathy website, www.naturopathy-uk.com, included a web page offering courses in Naturopathy. Under the heading "What is Naturopathy?" it stated, "A Naturopath is a health practitioner who applies natural therapies. His/her spectrum comprises far more than fasting, nutrition, water, and exercises; it includes approved natural healing practices such as Homeopathy, Acupuncture, and Herbal Medicine, as well as the use of modern methods like Bio-Resonance, Ozone-Therapy, and Colon Hydrotherapy". It also stated, "By using natural therapies he or she is able to treat both acute and chronic ailments successfully" and "Using a range of alternative methods of diagnosis, a Naturopath can often successfully pin-point a predisposition in the body, before the onset of acute disease, and treat the patient with specific therapies and changes in the patient's lifestyle". In a description of the principals of Naturopathy, the website stated, "The physician as teacher – a Naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care" and "Prevention is better than cure – a Naturopath may remove toxic substances and situations from a patient's lifestyle to prevent the onset of further disease".

Issue

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the website's references to the ability of Naturopaths to treat "acute and chronic ailments" and "disease" misleadingly implied that Naturopathy could treat medical conditions; and

2. the claim "The physician as teacher - a Naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care" misleadingly implied that Naturopathy practitioners were medically qualified.

CAP Code (Edition 12)
12.13.13.113.7

Response

CNM The College of Naturopathic Medicine Ltd (CNM) said naturopathy was an overarching term for a number of therapies including homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine. They said natural therapies had been around for thousands of years and were therefore a tradition and part of EU culture, which was protected under EU law. Furthermore they considered that to limit natural therapies would have a detrimental effect on practitioners and therefore on public health. CNM stated that surveys had shown that 80% of the public would prefer natural therapies over orthodox medicine. They also said that it was proven that natural therapies worked, through the experience of thousands of practitioners and also through other evidence.

They also said CNM was an educational institution and therefore had the right to free speech, education and expression under the European Convention of Human Rights. They did not believe claiming that natural therapies could treat and diagnose illness constituted marketing material, but was rather providing information to the public.

Assessment

The ASA noted that CNM believed the material objected to in the complaint was not marketing material. However, we considered the claims were directly connected with the supply of the materials and courses offered by CNM and were therefore within the scope of the CAP Code.

1. Upheld

We considered that the website implied that naturopathy could treat medical conditions. In the absence of any evidence to support this, we concluded that the claims breached the Code.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

2. Upheld

We considered that the term "physician" in the claim "The physician as teacher - a Naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care" implied that CNM's naturopaths were medical professionals suitably qualified to diagnose and treat disease. In the absence of any evidence to support this interpretation we concluded that the claim breached the Code.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

This article was posted on March 16, 2013.

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