These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Advertising Standards Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Ideal World Home Shopping
Complaint from: Staff monitoring
An advertisement for Metasys Green Tea Extract, a product designed to assist weight loss, was shown on Ideal World.
The advertisement claimed that the product increased a user's metabolic rate without increasing heart rate or blood pressure and reduced the body's absorption of fat.
It stated that the green tea extract contained antioxidants which "get rid of pollutants in the body which make the body lethargic" and that after regular use "the body starts cleansing itself - [like a] detox".
The commercial featured several testimonials from viewers who had taken Metasys and had lost significant amounts of weight. One caller tried it for one month and dropped from size 30 to 24, one lost 8lbs in two weeks and another lost 13lbs in 3.5 weeks. The presenter stressed that it was dangerous to lose weight too fast and that the recommended rate of weight loss was 2-2.5lbs per week.
The ITC was concerned about the recommended rate of weight loss quoted and the testimonial evidence. It asked Ideal World for its comments and substantiation to support the claims relating to the increase of metabolic rate and absorption of fat. The reference to metabolic rate and cleansing of the body also raised the question of whether it was acceptable to make medicinal claims about this particular product.
Ideal World provided satisfactory independent evidence to support the claims that Metasys increased metabolic rate and absorption of fat. Although it accepted this evidence, the ITC remained concerned about other aspects of the advertisement. It invited Ideal World to attend a meeting to discuss them further.
The ITC referred Ideal World to Rule 8.2.3 which states:
"No medicinal claims may be made for products that do not hold a marketing authorisation under the Medicines Act 1968".
The Metasys advertisement claimed that the product worked by increasing the metabolic rate and the absorption of fat and also cleansed the body of antioxidants. Based on advice provided by the Medical Controls Agency (MCA), the ITC understood that any statement referring to "interference with the normal operation of the physiological function" was a medicinal claim. In light of this advice, the ITC considered that the claims about the effect of Metasys on the body were unacceptable.
The ITC advised Ideal World that as Metasys did not carry a marketing authorisation, it fell to be considered under ITC Code Rules on Food and Dietary Supplements (Rule 8.3) and the Food Labelling Regulation 1996. As a slimming product, it would also need to observe ITC rules on Slimming Regimes and Weight Control Products (Rule 8.4).
The ITC explained that advertising for dietary supplements should "clearly establish which groups of people are likely to benefit from a particular form of supplement" (Rule 8.3.5 (b)) and referred Ideal World to the Rule Note which listed these groups. The Metasys advertisement promoted the product as if it was suitable for all. The ITC judged the advertisement was in breach of the Code in this regard.
Rule 8.4.3 of the Advertising Code states that:
"The rate and amount of weight loss must be compatible with accepted good medical and dietary practice and must be representative of the capabilities of the product or service".
According to guidelines set by the Department of Health slimming products should not claim weight loss rates of more than 2lbs per week. The testimonials quoted weight loss rates far in excess of these guidelines and Ideal World's presenter claimed the safe rate was 2 to 2.5lbs. The ITC judged the advertisement was in breach of the Code in this regard.
Rule 8.4.5 provides that:
"Advertisements for products and services in this category, ... must not be directed at the obese or use testimonials or case histories referring to subjects who were or appeared to be obese before using the product or service advertised".
At least one of the testimonials came from a woman who, based on her dress size, appeared to be obese. She claimed Metasys had helped her drop from size 30 to size 24 in one month. The ITC considered that this could raise viewer expectations and lead them to think that they could attain similarly dramatic results. It judged the advertisement was in breach of this rule.
To a large extent these rules all encompass Rule 5.1 - Definition of misleading advertising. The ITC reminded Ideal World that this rule applied to the overall impression created by an advertisement as much as it did to the specific, implied and express claims made in it. In this case, the dramatic results given by some of the testimonials gave the overall impression that Metasys would work for all.
The ITC required that Ideal World should review its presentation of this advertising and ensure that all aspects were made fully compliant.
Breach of ITC Code Rules 5.1, 8.2.3, 8.4.3, 8.4.5.