Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Ads for adjustable beds or chairs are often targeted at sufferers of conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism and bronchitis. The ASA prohibits references to serious conditions because consumers might be discouraged from seeking help from a qualified practitioner (Rule 12.2 ). Copy Advice accepts that a well-supported posture might provide temporary pain relief and marketers may claim that products that support a good posture can offer positional, temporary relief or comfort to sufferers. Marketers should not imply that relief or comfort is any more than temporary or that the product treats the condition.
In July 2005, the ASA ruled against a leaflet advertising a range of physiotherapy products that included chairs and beds, which, the advertiser claimed, were “ideal for sufferers from Arthritis, High Blood Pressure and Back Pain … You can actually feel the aches and pains easing by the moment …”. The ASA took advice from an expert, who believed the advertiser’s evidence fell short of demonstrating the efficacy of the products (Niagara Therapy (UK) Ltd, 20 July 2005).
In 2009 the ASA received a complaint about a brochure for reclining chairs which made claims including “A Willowbrook recliner chair should be experienced by sufferers of: Stress and tension; Arthritic pain; Aches and pains; Back pain; Mobility problems & many other conditions”, as well as featuring a number of testimonials from sufferers of such conditions. The advertisers explained that they did not claim to treat those conditions, but merely recommend that sufferers experience the chair. Regardless, the ASA considered that the claims went beyond suggesting that the products could provide temporary positional relief of aches and, in the absence of evidence to support those claims, considered the ad misleading (Willowbrook Ltd, 19 August 2009).
Similarly, the ASA upheld complaints about claims on an advertiser’s website in relation to its massage furniture which included “The benefits massage may bring you...Improved circulation...Improved blood supply to muscles boosting energy flow, May improve the rate at which the body recovers from injury or illness, Stimulates skin and nervous system whilst relaxing the nerves and boosting the immune system...Can lessen inflammation and swelling in joints by eliminating harmful deposits...". Because the ASA was not presented with sufficient evidence to support the efficacy claims in the ad, they concluded the brochure was misleading (Dreamwell Ltd, 4 April 2012).
Claims that those type of products can temporarily relieve minor conditions might be acceptable if supported by robust evidence but claiming vibrations or heat can treat serious medical conditions is not acceptable (Rules 3.7, 12.1).
Advertisers should ensure that they distinguish between the benefits of the vibrating or massaging action of their product and those that can be attributed to the positional action of their bed or chair. CAP understands that some evidence suggests benefits for local vibration treatment on direct cutaneous stimulation for pain experimentally induced in a specific part of the body, especially in healthy subjects. Neither the ASA nor CAP accepts that the treatment provided by vibrating or heated products can benefit sufferers of conditions such as arthritis.