ASA Adjudication on DM Digital Television Ltd
DM Digital Television Ltd t/a
57–63 Cheetham Hill Road
20 June 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A teleshopping ad for herbal products made a number of efficacy claims for the products in Urdu. The ad began with the presenter welcoming the guest and explaining that viewers should contact her for free advice. She then stated "One point to note is that all the products being talked about are natural products and using these brings no harm" before explaining that viewers should take advice from a GP before using any of the products that were to be discussed.
The guest began talking about acne. She explained that conventional medicines could have side effects and said "Using the Ayurvedic Natural Care product, acne can be treated in about 2-3 months." The presenter then stated "We are talking about hairs; one of the common problems is dandruff and alopecia, which can be treated by [the guest]." In response to a caller who said "My daughter's hairs are falling rapidly. Before she had long hair but in the last one-year her hairs are falling", the presenter replied "[the guest] will definitely tell you what is to be done, but before undertaking any treatment please consult your GP" before the guest advised "You can order the product and can use the shampoo. You can use it daily and the shampoo will cure the dandruff and the hairs will stop falling. This is natural some hairs fall. This is normal. And if they are falling at a rapid pace, then you should see a change. The Mustard Oil that you use is not meant for your hairs. The use of natural hair oil gives results in 4 days." Another caller asked about her husband's alopecia. The presenter reiterated that the guest would answer the question but that the caller should consult their GP before taking any treatment. The guest stated "You need to get this treated and will see some improvements." She then asked questions about the caller's husband's condition, at which point the caller asked how she could contact the guest and the presenter said "Please call the number on screen, or take the number from our control room."
Another caller asked a question about her son's eczema, to which the guest replied "it takes time for the spots on skin to disappear, six months to a year. The skin gradually repairs and it takes time." The presenter then asked the guest about medicines to increase height, to which the guest responded "There are some capsules available for height increase and a powder which can be taken as a drink but along with this exercise is also necessary. These don't show any immediate effect. Generally people gain height until 25 years and it varies amongst girls and boys. Height increase is generally seen across 6 - 12 months and by 1-2 inches until the age of 25 years." The presenter concluded the ad by saying "Please do consult your GP before taking any treatment or medicines."
At one point, the presenter stated "[the guest] is giving lots of suggestions and some of these suggestions may or may not work on all persons." On-screen text throughout the ad stated "This programme does not give any medical advice and viewers should seek advice from their GP before taking any treatment or trial of any herbal products. Please seek your GPs advice before any treatment. This is a teleshopping presentation and entertainment ad brought to you by DM Digital Television".
1. The complainant challenged whether the efficacy claims made for the products were misleading and could be substantiated.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad offered medical treatments in a teleshopping broadcast, which was a breach of the Code.
1. & 2. DM Digital Television Ltd t/a DM Digital (DM Digital) said the ad was a live transmission in the studio, that the ad had not been repeated since the complaint was received and that they had no plans to use the ad again in future.
They said the guest had advised them that she would talk about the general benefits of herbal treatments and that they had explained to her that the direct promotion of products was not allowed. They said the ad was meant to be for educational and general entertainment purposes only and that it was clear from the on-screen text that appeared throughout the ad that it was not intended to provide medical advice.
They believed that the claims made by the guest may be out of context when translated literally into English, and that in Urdu the ad conveyed more general information about the use of herbal products. They said nowhere in the ad was it suggested that the products should be taken without medical advice from a GP and that this was reiterated several times by the presenter. They did not believe the ad was likely to mislead viewers to the point that they would decide the products would cure them of their problems.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted the advertiser's assertion that the ad was an entertainment feature. We noted that on-screen text appeared throughout the ad which stated that it did not give medical advice and that viewers should seek advice from their GP before taking a treatment. We also noted that the presenter made several references during the ad to the need for viewers to consult their GP before taking a treatment.
We noted that the ad referred to medical conditions, in particular, acne, eczema and alopecia and claimed that the guest could provide Ayurvedic products that would treat those conditions. Although we accepted that the precise meaning of some of the guest's comments may have been altered when translated into English, we considered the references to medical conditions were clear and that it was clear the guest had suggested various treatments for those conditions. We had not seen evidence that demonstrated the products mentioned could successfully treat those conditions, or that they could clear dandruff or increase height in those under the age of 25.
We noted that, irrespective of the efficacy of the products, and notwithstanding the nature and extent of the warnings for viewers to seek advice from their GP before starting a treatment, teleshopping for medical treatments was expressly prohibited by the Code. Because the ad promoted products that were said to treat acne, eczema and alopecia, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.12 (Exaggeration) and 11.12.3 (Medicines, medical devices, treatments and health).
We noted that DM Digital had no plans to use the ad again, and we told them to ensure that they did not. We also told them to ensure they did not broadcast teleshopping for medical treatments in future.