ASA Adjudication on Transform Medical Group (CS) Ltd
Transform Medical Group (CS) Ltd
192 Altrincham Road
6 May 2009
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A magazine ad, for Transform Medical Group, featured the claim "Britain's number one cosmetic surgery group". Text at the bottom of the ad said "BREAST SURGERY FAT REMOVAL FACIAL SURGERY COSMETIC DENTISTRY WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY NON-SURGICAL TREATMENTS HAIR LOSS TREATMENTS MALE COSMETIC SURGERY".
The Harley Medical Group (HMG) challenged whether the claim "Britain's number one cosmetic surgery group" was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Transform Medical Group (TMG) said they offered both surgical and non-surgical procedures, which were marketed under the Transform brand and the TransformEnhance brand, respectively. They said the ad referred solely to their cosmetic surgery business and HMG did not appear to distinguish between surgical and non-surgical procedures in their advertising. TMG said three independent market research companies named Transform as either "the largest provider" or the "market leader" for cosmetic surgery in the UK.
TMG said turnover of their surgical business for 2008, as yet unaudited, was £35 million and was greater than that of HMG's combined non-surgical and surgical businesses, which was £30.6 million for the financial year 2008. They obtained information on HMGs turnover from accounts filed at Companies House.
TMG also provided the ASA with the number of surgical procedures they had carried out during the financial year 2008 but asked that those details be kept confidential. They confirmed however that the figures did not include follow-up procedures to present as true a picture as possible of unit sales. They explained that, because corresponding information about HMG was not in the public domain, they were unable to provide us with comparative data.
TMG nevertheless pointed out that, since the turnover of their surgical business was greater than HMG's combined surgical and non-surgical turnover and since HMG were typically more expensive, they believed it followed that HMG must have carried out fewer procedures. TMG pointed to an earlier ASA adjudication which had rejected this argument because higher turnover did not necessarily equate to carrying out more procedures: one surgical group could carry out more of the lower-priced procedures which could lead to carrying out more surgical procedures in general, whilst having a lower turnover. TMG argued, however, that breast procedures made up 70% of their surgical procedures and were typically less expensive than other procedures compared to HMG, who stated in a press release in October 2008, that breast enlargement procedures made up 30% of all their procedures. Therefore TMG's split of procedures was more inclined towards the less expensive procedures and, since their procedures were cheaper and they had a greater turnover than HMG, they could therefore conclude that they carried out a greater number of procedures.
The ASA noted TMG's argument that the ad promoted only their cosmetic surgery business and we noted it referred to a number of surgical procedures such as breast surgery and weight loss surgery. We noted however the ad also mentioned non-surgical procedures and hair loss treatments. We therefore considered that readers were unlikely to infer that the ad promoted only the surgical side of the business and would infer that it promoted the availability of TMG's procedures in general, both surgical and non-surgical.
We considered that readers would expect the claim "Britain's number one cosmetic surgery group" to mean that TMG had a higher turnover and performed more procedures, both surgical and non-surgical, than its competitors. We noted TMG had provided turnover figures which showed that their surgical business turnover alone was greater than HMG's surgical and non-surgical businesses combined.
We noted TMG's argument that, on account of their turnover being higher, their procedures typically being cheaper and the popularity of their cheaper procedures, they could draw the conclusion that they performed a greater number of surgical procedures. We considered, however, that to substantiate the claim, "Britains number one cosmetic surgery group", TMG needed to be able to produce robust comparative evidence showing that they carried out more surgical and non-surgical procedures than HMG. HMG and TMG told us the total number of surgical procedures they had carried out in the financial year 2008, each wished that information to be kept confidential, but neither submitted supporting, documentary evidence of those figures. We were therefore unable to establish which company had carried out the most surgical and non-surgical procedures.
We considered that, to claim "Britain's number one cosmetic surgery group", TMG would need to be able to continue to check the veracity of the claim. We understood that would not be possible if the information about the number of procedures performed by their competitors was not in the public domain.
We considered that, as we had not seen robust comparative data to show that TMG performed more surgical and non-surgical procedures than HMG, the claim was unsubstantiated and could mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Fair comparison).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told TMG to qualify the claim "Britain's number one cosmetic surgery group" to make clear that it was based on turnover only.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)