ASA respond to complaints about homeopathy websites
Challenging misleading claims
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The Nightingale Collaboration's first Focus of the month concerned misleading claims made on homeopathy websites. Many of you told us about the websites you complained about and the misleading claims you had found.
The ASA has already responded to those first complaints, revealing that they received over 150 complaints about misleading claims on homeopathy websites. In an email sent to those who complained, they said:
We commend the ASA for responding so quickly to the large number of complaints. We know that many misleading claims have already been taken down from homeopathy websites and we expect that any remaining misleading claims will be removed once the ASA has written to the individual advertisers.
This is a fantastc result and this is what the Nightingale Collaboration is all about — ensuring that members of the public are not presented with healthcare claims that cannot be substantiated.
It is not essential that formal adjudications are published for these complaints: all that matters is that misleading claims are removed.
Although the ASA rules only came into force on 1st March, they were fully announced over six months ago with pre-announcements about the ASA's digital remit extension long before that. This six-month period was specifically given andannounced as a 'period of grace' so that advertisers had time to understand the ASA's rules, to seek advice from the ASA's freeCopy Advice service or attend one of the ASA's training or advice seminars on offer and to change websites accordingly.
However, because of the extent of the problem, the ASA have decided to give homeopathy advertisers an additional three months in which to comply. It is unfortunate that the public may have to wait even longer before misleading claims are removed, but we appreciate that this is a pragmatic decision by the ASA.
Whilst it is possible that some homeopaths might have missed the ASA's own advertising campaign — which included extensive commercial radio ads — it seems unlikely that the various homeopathy trade bodies were unaware of the impending requirement for websites to comply with the ASA's CAP Code. It would have been reasonable to assume that they had already taken action to inform their members. However, some of the recent ASA complaints were about misleading claims made by some of the leading members of these trade bodies on their own websites!
This is particularly surprising given that the Code of Ethics of one of the main homeopathy trade bodies, the Society of Homeopaths, who claim to represent 'professional homeopaths', have a clear requirement for their members to abide by ASA guidance:
We can only hope that they will now start to take their responsibilities seriously and help ensure their members are not the subject of any further complaints.
In the ASA's email, they say they will be working with these organisations to ensure their members' websites comply with the CAP Code. It remains to be seen just how vigilant and thorough they and their members are. Given their past failings, there is not much to be optimistic about.
However, it goes without saying that those websites will be diligently monitored by others.
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Alan & Maria
Saturday, 25 May 2013
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