ASA Adjudication on Alan Sharrock
Alan Sharrock t/a
Miruji Health & Wellbeing
17 October 2012
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A four-page wrap-around regional press ad promoted a massage chair with a built-in MP3 device which was said to provide audio mind coaching whilst delivering a massage to the user. Text on one page stated "We all know the benefits of having a positive mindset ... Our powerful NLP/CBT mind coaching programmes are designed to help you achieve success in anything you put your mind to" and "The Miruji Wellbeing chair combines relaxation, massage and unique powerful mind coaching audio programmes designed to help you succeed in any area of your life ... Whilst you totally relax you can choose to listen to one of our exclusive cutting edge mind coaching audio programmes, designed to address many of the common issues that affect so many people today". Another page contained text which read "Stress can affect us in many ways, leading to anxiety, poor quality of sleep, low energy levels, depression, weight gain and many other issues. The Miruji wellbeing chair combines two recognised therapies. One 1000's [sic] of years old with another that has been developed in the last few years. Massage has been used for centuries; its health benefits are well documented. CBT(cognitive behavioural therapy) and NLP(neuro linguistic therapy [sic]) have been developed relatively recently. These psychological therapies are known to help people change behaviour leading to beneficial effects on a range of issues. When these two powerful therapies are combined the results are truly remarkable".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "Our powerful NLP/CBT mind coaching programmes are designed to help you achieve success in anything you put your mind to" was misleading and could be substantiated, because she understood that the chair played relaxation tracks rather than NLP programmes and that CBT could not be delivered in this way; and
2. the implied claim that the chair could help with emotional and mental health issues such as depression was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Alan Sharrock, trading as Miruji Health & Wellbeing, (Miruji) responded that the Miruji Wellbeing chair combined relaxation, massage and unique powerful mind coaching audio programmes that had been designed to help people succeed in any area of their life. They explained that at the time the ad was published they had believed the audio tapes used a combination of both CBT and NLP, but that they now understood the tapes did not use any CBT and consequently they would not make that claim again.
Miruji stated that the audio tapes were compiled by a Clinical Master Hypnotherapist, stress management consultant and mind coach and provided a copy of her qualifications, which included a Diploma in Practical NLP. They said the tapes made use of hypnosis, NLP tools and relaxation techniques and they quoted definitions of NLP from the Internet which described it as a method of learning to understand and control thought processes in order to influence behaviour patterns and improve relationships. Miruji said customers using the massage chair could listen to one of 15 audio programmes which aimed to give the individual a more positive attitude. They pointed out that therapy only worked when a person was willing to change and stated that they encouraged their members to take responsibility and make improvements to their lives. They explained that members were able to have one-to-one coaching with the creator of the audio tapes and stated that the combination of the massage, audio and one-to-one coaching helped to empower people, which invariably motivated them to move forward.
2. Miruji stated that they had received many testimonials from customers who said the chair had helped them change their behaviour and reduce their limiting beliefs, and provided examples of some of these, which they said supported the claims made in the ad. They also submitted information on a trial which had been conducted to test the efficacy of the massage chair and its audio tapes.
The ASA understood that people using the Miruji Wellbeing chair would undergo a massage whilst listening to one of 15 audio tracks which were designed to increase their positivity. We noted that Miruji had said the audio tapes did not constitute CBT but did use NLP tools along with hypnosis and relaxation techniques. We understood that the tapes were designed to work by encouraging listeners to develop a more positive outlook on their life, and that in some ways that might be linked to the principles of NLP, which aimed to help people understand and control their patterns of thought. We acknowledged the certificate provided by Miruji, which showed that the creator of the tapes had undertaken training in NLP.
We understood that the practice of NLP was not a regulated industry in the UK and that there was no fixed requirement as to the minimum qualifications of anyone claiming to provide that form of therapy. In that context, we considered that it was not unreasonable for Miruji to claim that their tapes provided NLP, on the basis that they had been created by someone with experience in that field. However, because we understood that the audio tapes did not use CBT at all, we concluded that the claim "Our powerful NLP/CBT mind coaching programmes are designed to help you achieve success in anything you put your mind to" was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
We considered the data gathered from the trial of the Miruji Wellbeing chair. We noted that at the time of the trial the chair had been called "Sit and Be Happy", and that the trial aimed to test whether the chair could improve wellbeing by using relaxation and audio to help the user de-stress. Thirty-two people had volunteered to use the chair on an ad-hoc basis over a period of three months, 28 of whom had dropped out before the end of the trial. No randomisation or blinding had been carried out on the participants. Because of the methodology and small sample size, we considered that the trial was not capable of showing whether or not the chair was effective in reducing stress levels.
We considered that the ad implied the chair could help with emotional and mental health issues, including depression, by reducing the user's stress levels. We acknowledged the anecdotal evidence from Miruji, whereby some clients who were asked to recommend the business had reported feeling more relaxed, more confident or less stressed after using the chair. However, we considered that that form of evidence was not sufficient on its own to demonstrate that there was a causal relationship between use of the chair and lowered stress levels, or to draw any conclusions regarding its effect on the emotional and mental health issues mentioned in the ad.
Because we had not seen robust documentary evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of the chair, we concluded that the implied claim that it could help with emotional and mental health issues such as depression was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Miruji to ensure they held adequate substantiation before making claims to provide certain forms of therapy in their advertising. We also told them not to imply the chair could help with emotional or mental health issues unless they held robust documentary evidence to that effect.