Since the 1st of March, the ASA have been taking complaints about adverts on traders web site. The Nightingale Collaboration – a new body set up to counter misleading quack claims – decided to make homeopathy its 'focus of the month'. In a move that might have been anticipated, the ASA have been inundated and will deal with complaints in a generic fashion.
People who complained to the ASA received this email this morning,
ADVERTISING CLAIMS ON HOMEOPATHY WEBSITES
Thank you for your recent complaint.
As you may know, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received over a hundred and fifty complaints about over a hundred different websites for homeopathy. Complaints cover a range of issues from specific claims made by individual advertisers to general concerns about the sector as a whole. Because of the volume of complaints, we are sending this letter to everyone who contacted us on these issues to let you know what action we intend to take.
The ASA has an established position on claims that can be made, and those claims that are not likely to be acceptable for homeopathy, based on the requirements set out in the CAP Code and previous ASA adjudications. Although we have not historically received many complaints about advertising for homeopathy, the Code has general requirements for substantiation of claims in the health sector and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) offers specific advice on marketing health-related products and services. Further information about the requirements of the advertising Code is available on our website www.asa.org.uk and fromwww.copyadvice.org.uk.
We are seeking to enforce compliance with the Code even-handedly across the sector by contacting all of the advertisers we have received complaints about as well as the bodies that represent homeopaths and homeopathy in the UK. We will be explaining the Code’s requirements, giving advice on how to ensure advertising claims do not breach the Code, and asking advertisers to remove any claims which do not comply. More information about what that means in practice is provided in the CAP Help Notes on Substantiation for Health, Beauty and Slimming claims and Health, Beauty and Slimming Marketing Communications that Refer to Medical Conditions. You can find these documents on our Copy Advice website, as indicated above. Because the ASA has only been regulating websites since 1 March many of the advertisers we contact will not be familiar with us or the work we do and will need help and assistance from us. For that reason, we plan to monitor compliance 3 months after making our expectations of them clear. We feel that this will give advertisers, some of whom are very small and have limited resources, sufficient time to make the necessary changes.
The ASA will not be publishing individual adjudications on this occasion. We will however publish specific, up-to-date advice to the industry and its representative bodies in due course and we will work with them to ensure that advertising for homeopathy is compliant with the Code.
Thank you for taking the trouble to contact us. While you will not see immediate results please be assured that we are working hard in the background to resolve the issues that have been complained about.
Now. This will be a good thing of homeopaths amend their web sites. I understand bodies like the Society of Homeopaths have been telling their members to remove claims about named treatments from their web sites. (Somewhat belatedly – as their code of ethics forbids this anyway.) However, I doubt we will see much major change – and this is why: homeopaths actually believe they have the evidence to justify their claims.
Homeopaths believe that because they have been 'successful' for 200 years, this justifies their practice. They also believe that the array of substandard research out there again justifies generic claims to be made.
This is step one in a long campaign to clean up misleading claims. It will undoubtedly need a second wave of complaints where individual adjudications are made – and even then, I suspect it will require the ASA to start referring individual traders to the Office of Fair Trading for criminal proceedings to be taken.
Cultish beliefs do not disappear that quickly.