Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication

23 April 2008


Forest Gate Homeopathic Practice
484 Katherine Road
Forest Gate, London E7 8DP

Ad

Monitoring staff viewed an ad in Bengali for Forest Gate Homeopathic Practice (FGHP) on Channel S ATN. The ad showed people walking into the practice and waiting. Different men, wearing stethoscopes, talked to people across a desk and in one scene one of the men seemed to write out a prescription. In another he was holding up a packet of what seemed to be medicine. Another man was shown opening a glass-fronted medicine cabinet full of bottles and packets. At the end of the ad, on-screen text stated "Consultant - MD. Alim Uddin B.S.Y (D.HOM) F.B.I.H".

The voice-over stated "A new method in the field of treatment Forest Gate Homeopathic Practice is a member of UK Homeopathic Medical Association. Mr Alim Uddin, educated in Britain, is an experienced Homeo Consultant who is offering treatment for your complex and complicated ailments. Entirely agreeing with science and depending on natural process, it has no side effect; hence safe and beneficial for all. Then without delay, come today to Forest Gate Homeopathic Practice."

Issue

Monitoring staff challenged whether:

1. the ad gave the impression of professional medical advice;

2. the reference to "treatments for complex and complicated ailments" was a therapeutic claim.

Monitoring staff challenged whether the ad suggested that the treatments:

3. had no side effects;

4. were safe or effective because they were natural.

5. Monitoring staff challenged the acceptability of broadcasting the ad after two upheld ASA adjudications against FGHP for similar reasons.

BCAP TV Advertising Code: 5.1;8.2.2;8.2.12;8.2.14;8.1.2

Response

1. Channel S Plus Ltd stopped broadcasting the ad during the investigation. Channel S Plus Ltd explained that FGHP was registered and affiliated with the Homeopathic Medical Association UK and that enabled FGHP to offer alternative medicinal homeopathic treatment after a consultation and assessment of the patients health. Channel S Plus Ltd asserted that FGHPs local authority required the consultation surgery to replicate a general practitioners surgery. As part of their assessment of a patients health FGHP conducted tests on, for example, blood, urine, stools and took patients pulses. Channel S Plus Ltd explained that the homeopaths used stethoscopes to ascertain their patients health.

Channel S Plus Ltd explained that Alim Uddin was a homeopathic consultant and the reference to "MD." was an abbreviation of Alim Uddins first name, Mohammed.

Channel S Plus Ltd said that because the ad was for an alternative form of treatment, homeopathy, they believed viewers would not be misled into thinking that the ad was referring to medical treatments by a medically qualified physician. Channel S Plus Ltd added that their viewers were culturally and socially aware of homeopathic treatment and understood that homeopathic treatment was different from medical treatment.

2. Channel S Plus Ltd explained that people typically sought homeopathy treatment for colds and allergies, which, for cultural and linguistic reasons, had been translated as "complex and complicated ailments". They acknowledged that although in English "complex and complicated ailments" would refer to "serious illness", in Bengali it meant "basic ailments", which were often treated by pharmacists or over-the-counter medicines.

3. Channel S Plus Ltd maintained that, because of their different interpretation of medicinal products, the side effects claim was perceived differently.

4. Channel S Plus Ltd explained that the products shown in the ad were herbs and spices that were consumed on a regular basis by their viewers. They maintained that, in that context, the definition of medicinal products was different and the products were better described as "medicinal produce". They added that the ad did not directly identify a specific product.

5. Channel S Plus Ltd maintained that they were complying with the earlier ASA adjudications and that the ad had been altered taking those adjudications into account.

Assessment

1. Upheld
The ASA considered the ad implied the men providing the treatment were doctors offering professional medical advice because they were wearing stethoscopes and the ad showed people being offered advice in a setting that looked very much like a doctor's surgery. We understood from their local Council that it had no requirement to make the premises look like a doctors surgery. We considered that the ad also implied that professional advice was being offered because the voice-over referred to Alim Uddin as "an experienced Homeo Consultant" and on-screen text at the end claimed "Consultant - MD. ...". We understood that Mohammed is typically abbreviated as "Md.", not "MD.".

The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising) and 8.1.2 (Impressions of professional advice and support).

2. Upheld
We noted the ad claimed that FGHP offered "treatment for your complex and complicated ailments." We understood that the original Bangladeshi words could also mean treatment for complex and severe or acute illness". We considered that the impression created by the ad, which included the men wearing stethoscopes and writing out prescriptions, implied that the treatment offered was not merely an over-the-counter treatment or advice from a pharmacist. We considered the ad had made a therapeutic claim.

The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 8.2.2 (b) (Homeopathic medicinal products).

3. Upheld
The CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code states "No advertisement for a medicinal product may suggest it has no side effects". We considered the claim "no side effect" breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 8.2.12 (Side effects).

4. Upheld
The CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code does not permit ads for a medicinal product to suggest that the latters safety or efficacy is due to it being natural. We considered the claim "depending on natural process, it has no side effect; hence safe and beneficial for all" breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 8.2.14 ("Natural" products).

5. Upheld
We noted this was the second time Channel S Plus Ltd had not complied with a previous ASA adjudication. We reminded Channel S Plus Ltd that failure to comply with an ASA adjudication was a serious breach of broadcast licence conditions that could result in a referral to Ofcom.

Action

We concluded that the ad must not be shown again in its present form.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)


Advertising Standards Authority,
Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6QT, United Kingdom

Related Adjudications: 2005, 2006

This page was posted on April 23, 2008.

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