Challenging misleading healthcare claims.

The continuing saga of Holland and Barrett

This really should have been very simple — and sorted out a long time ago.

Holland and Barrett advertises the Nelsons homeopathic products it sells in its stores. The advertising of these products is controlled by regulations and enforced by the medicines regulator, the MHRA. The advertiser should already have known and understand those regulations and what is and isn't permitted when advertising these products.

But it seems they didn't know. After a complaint from us, the MHRA told them to ensure they complied and Holland and Barrett told the MHRA they would take action to rectify the situation. That was at the start of 2012.

Then in July, we found out that they were still not complying with the regulations, so we submitted another complaint to the medicines regulator.

We sent them photographs sent in by our supporters from eight Holland and Barrett stores up and down the country that still had the point-of-sale advertising that the MHRA had told them was not permitted.

Richmond (07 July 2012) 2

Richmond (07 July 2012)

Bury St Edmunds (20 June 2012)

Bury St Edmunds (20 June 2012)

Camb Lion Yard

Cambridge Lion Yard (25 May 2012)

Cambridge Grafton (25 May 2012)

Cambridge Grafton (25 May 2012)

Kensington High Street (25 June 2012)

Kensington High Street (25 June 2012)

Saffron Walden (29 April 2012) -1

Saffron Walden (29 April 2012)

Trafford Centre (30 July 2012) -03

Trafford Centre (30 July 2012)

Stortford (7 June 2012) -3

Stortford (7 June 2012)

Stortford (7 June 2012) -2

Stortford (7 June 2012)


Note the different format of the advertising in the Stortford store.

This sorry tale started last December — and it's still not successfully concluded.

As reported on The Twenty-First Floor, and although it took the MHRA some time — and some prompting — their ruling on our last complaint was finally published on their website today:

Advertising homeopathic products in Holland and Barrett stores, July 2012

Advertising investigations

22 October 2012

The Nightingale Collaboration complained to the MHRA about point of sale advertising of Nelson's homeopathic products in six Holland and Barrett stores and advertising on their website. The complainant was concerned that the advertising included indications for use but the products were not licensed with indications. A similar complaint investigated in November 2011 concerning the same point of sale materials and website was upheld and Holland and Barrett had agreed to withdraw the materials from all stores and review their website.

The MHRA upheld this complaint. Holland and Barrett stated that the advertising materials were displayed in a small number of stores due to a miscommunication. They issued another communication to withdraw the advertising from their stores and amended the information on their website.

Date case raised: 12 July 2012
Date action agreed: 9 August 2012
Date of publication: 22 October 2012

When the MHRA informed me of the outcome at the start of last month, they said:

We have once again been in correspondence with Holland and Barrett again and have completed our investigations. You may wish to know that the point of sale materials were mistakenly displayed in Holland and Barrett stores and have now been withdrawn from the stores.

Holland and Barrett have agreed that we can make a copy of their response to your complaint available to you. This is enclosed and provides their comments on this advertising feature and addresses the concerns raised in your email of 12 July 2012.

In Holland and Barrett's response to the MHRA, they stated:

We were made aware around middle of July 2012 that a very few H&B shops had not removed the booklets as we had instructed late last year. It had come apparent that this was due to some stores having another booklet that was not displayed to customers but was sent out by the suppliers 'Nelson' previously to help our store staff with knowledge of the products. Hence certain stores assumed that this was the booklet referred into the recall and not the one that was displayed.

Therefore we re- issued a new memo to the stores clearly advising of the booklet displayed on the shelves next to the products that need to be removed. Please see attached a copy of the memo sent. We have called all the stores listed in the complaint letter and they have all removed the displayed booklet and sent it back to depot since this revised memo was issued.

It was all a mix-up and miscommunication, apparently.

But at least this new memo made everything clear:





To:                  H&B / NW Stores

From:              Technical Services

Date:               24th July 2012

Subject:           Nelsons Homeopathic Booklet "Which Remedy do I Need"

Reason:           MHRA Complaint – Booklet is making medicinal claims that are not allowed


A recall was put on pulse back in December 2011 for these booklets to be removed and returned back to depot, however it has been bought to our attention not all were removed and/or returned.

Therefore can you please check if your store still has this booklet on display or is still available in your store.

If so, remove the booklet from display/store immediately and also any other POS notices with the Nelsons range products that have a reference to the booklet.



Nelsons Homeopathic Booklet "Which Remedy do I Need"


Action Required – Please check to see if you still have the above booklet in your store next to the Nelsons Homeopathic products or in store, if you do then remove immediately, place in an envelope (with your store name and number on the front) and return to the warehouse with your delivery driver for the attention of Technical Services.

You'd have thought that that would be the end of it and that all Holland and Barrett stores would all now be complying with the medicines regulations.

Apparently not. 

Blogger Josephine Jones sent us a photograph she took in the Trafford Cernte in Manchester this morning:

Trafford Centre (22 October 2012)

Needless to say, a third complaint has been submitted to the MHRA.

22 October 2012