ASA Adjudication on Associated Newspapers Ltd
Associated Newspapers Ltd t/a
2 Derry Street
25 April 2012
Internet (sales promotion)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated; the complaints were Upheld.
Claims on wowcher.co.uk, a 'deal a day' website, seen in November 2011, stated "CryoLipo permanent fat-reducing treatment ... slim down in time for Christmas and save 80%". Smaller, bulleted points stated "Eliminate areas of unwanted fat", "Non-invasive and totally safe". "Uses cold temperature to gently remove fat". "Permanent results" and "Up to 30% fat loss".
The complainant challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. "permanent fat-reducing treatment" and "Permanent results";
2. "Up to 30% fat loss"; and
3. "Non-invasive and totally safe".
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Associated Newspapers (Wowcher) said that the ad was approved by Aesthetics of London who provided the treatment in line with how they marketed the treatment on their own website. Wowcher said it was not their intention to mislead their readers and they always endeavoured to comply with the ASA Code.
Wowcher provided the ASA with a study on the effects of non-invasive Cryolipolysis which stated that six months following the treatment, an average of 25.5% fat layer reduction was seen in a subject group following the treatment with a range between 10.7% and 37.5%. Wowcher also highlighted the study's conclusion which stated that cryolipolysis treatment substantially reduced subcutaneous fat volume and changed the contour of the treated areas without damage to the skin.
The ASA noted the study provided by Wowcher only highlighted reductions in the fat layer of the test subjects up to six months after treatment and we considered that there was no evidence in the study which indicated that Cryolipolysis was a "permanent fat-reducing treatment" or that it could offer "Permanent results". We understood the treatment would not prevent new fat cells from forming in the same area and we therefore concluded that the claims were misleading.
On this point, the claims 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).
We noted the study provided by Wowcher showed the effects of the treatment on ten subjects but also noted that four of these did not complete the six-month follow-up evaluation. We noted that of the remaining six subjects, two achieved fat loss of around 30% and one achieved weight loss of 37.5%. We also noted that one achieved weight loss of just 10.7%. However, because of the low number of test subjects, we did not consider that the study was robust enough to support the claim "Up to 30% fat loss". We also considered that this claim could have been interpreted as a claim about overall body fat loss and we did not consider the ad made it clear that the claim related only to the area being treated. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading and had not been substantiated.
On this point, the claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
We understood that the treatment was applied by coating "love handle" tissue in a proprietary coupling gel and drawing it into an applicator using a mild vacuum, which positioned the tissue between two cooling panels and held it in place for the duration of the treatment. We therefore understood that cryolipolysis was a superficial treatment which did not puncture or break the skin and we considered that it was therefore reasonable to describe it as non-invasive.
However, we noted that the CAP Code required advertisers to hold proof before claiming that a product or therapy was absolutely safe and we considered that Wowcher therefore needed to demonstrate with robust scientific evidence that cryolipolysis would be safe for all users. We noted the study provided by Wowcher, but we understood that the study was designed to investigate the efficacy rather than the safety of the therapy. We also noted that a number of groups had been excluded from the trial, including those who had medical conditions which made them averse to low temperatures and those where their participation could have posed, what the study described as, an "unacceptable risk to the subject".
Because we had not seen evidence that cryolipolysis was "totally safe" we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
On this point, the claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 12.3 and 12.9 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The claims must not appear again in their current form.