This case study shows that practitioners are simply not aware of who the ASA is and what they can do about it until the information is made available. It also illustrates what can be done when a practitioner understands who the ASA and what the options are for dealing with it.
Halcyon Bracelets was approached by the ASA and basically told to remove just about everything of importance from her website. They provided no helpful advice and did not accept testimonies from people that had used the product. Thinking that this was a government department Halcyon removed materials but the ASA were still not pleased. Halcyon then found out that the ASA had no legal authority and discovered that there was another process through the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT) that provided an expert appraisal of their site using professionals, including legal expertise, who had a broad understanding of the issues at hand. The Consequently, Halcyon received Advertising Certification and now has the support of the GRCCT panel. For the personal account of Halcyon’s owner, please read further.
I have been approached twice by the ASA. The first time was in August 2014 by way of a complaint about 2 issues on my website. I was really worried about it like many people, I thought that the ASA was a legal body or government body. It really did keep me awake at night. I spoke to a very nice young lady at the ASA and actually she was very sympathetic and advised me to contact the CAP for wording advice, which I did. The nature of this first complaint was this :
1) in the absence of adequate substantiation, remove the challenged efficacy claims and references to RLS and seek advice from our Copy Advice team; and
2) avoid suggesting that sufferers should not seek medical advice or take prescribed medications for RLS.
In my naivety, I agreed in writing to remove the efficacy claims (as they saw them – I now know that they were not even real claims). In making that agreement I did not realise that meant in the eyes of the ASA and CAP that I should remove all what they saw as claims and implied claims. I removed the suggestion about trying my product before going down the road of strong medication and also removed what they say was a claim that the bracelets work, albeit I only said that they work for me. I then sent my revised website to CAP and they came back with the fact that I had not complied at all and that I needed to remove all mention of Restless Legs Syndrome from my site which was ridiculous as I sell a product for the relief of Restless Legs Syndrome and that would ruin my business, not to mention deprive many people of the relief they might find. I removed bits, spoke to the ASA again and told them that I think I know who was behind this complaint and that this person had been harassing me.
She hinted for me to just leave things be for now as I had said I would comply and the case would be closed, and see if anything further came of the complaint, which I did. Then in October I got another complaint, after another conflict with this particular party who I think have a vendetta against me. This time it had 9 complaints and again I was beside myself with worry. It was at this point that I heard from Freedom4Heath telling me what the ASA really were, a private limited company and not legal or governmental at all. My relief was huge and I thank Angela of F4H for getting in touch. I replied to the ASA using my own email. I did think I would use the template on F4H website, but this would be the next step if I did in fact need it.
I spoke to the chap that sent me the complaint and then I wrote a couple of emails about the person that I thought was behind this and how they had been harassing me on Facebook and other social media. I sent him screen shots of some of the conversations on Facebook with this person/persons and also a copy of a slanderous post saying that my company was a scam, which I duly made this person retract by threatening legal action. I then received an email back from the ASA saying that they were sorry that I had been harassed by this person, they would look into it and get back to me the following week.
In the meantime I applied for advertising certification from the GRCCT which I have now received and posted the logo onto my website. That all said, if the ASA do come back to me now, I feel far more confident knowing that I have Freedom4health and the GRCCT to turn to for help.
When I was contacted by the ASA I was worried sick for several weeks until I heard of Freedom4health.[ED. Since this account Halcyon Bracelets has received another letter from the ASA. We understand that they have replied appropriately and in line with their GRCCT certification.]
I think it has affected by business somewhat as I removed all content of my theory behind the workings of my product. I do have many testimonials that my bracelets are helping people but nothing that would be accepted as full scientific evidence as yet. So my theory was important for people to read. That said, I added other content. I have more confidence to go forward having the GRCCT certification and the backing of Freedom4health.