We have today welcomed the outcome of legal action taken against Electronic Healing – a provider of complementary and alternative therapies and devices – by trading standards officers from the London Borough of Camden on behalf of National Trading Standards.We referred Electronic Healing to National Trading Standards, our legal backstop power, on account of the company’s refusal to comply with the rules in place to prevent consumers from being misled by irresponsible advertising.
Following guilty pleas by the owners of Electronic Healing, Steven and Susan Lee, to offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and Food Safety Act, the pair were today (Thursday 4 August) fined £1,000 each. They were also each ordered to pay £7,000 costs, as well as a £100 victim surcharge. Moreover, the defendants agreed to forfeit £7,000 cash seized on the day of the warrant.
Electronic Healing was subject to two formal investigations by the ASA, following which the company was found to be in breach of the rules against making misleading efficacy claims (specifically in respect of claims made on its website about products named ‘Bob Beck Protocol’ and ‘Liquid Oxygen Drops’). The ad claimed that Bob Beck Protocol “kills or disables microbes (virus, bacteria, and fungus) in the body” while Liquid Oxygen Drops were “credited with a multitude of significant health benefits from healthy energy to immunity and disease prevention”. A video on the company’s website also claimed that The Bob Beck Protocol could “amplify the immune system, remove the need for flu vaccinations, increase oxygen in the blood, reduce HIV infection levels and help fibromyalgia”.
The advertiser failed to provide adequate evidence to support its claims and was placed on a list of non-compliant online advertisers on our website. Despite the sanction, the company continued to make claims that had the potential to mislead consumers. Responding to these continued breaches, we referred the company to Trading Standards for prosecution – a process that culminated in today’s sentencing hearing.
Following changes in the law, in 2013 The London Borough of Camden contracted with National Trading Standards to provide the ASA’s legal backstop in relation to misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair non-broadcast advertising. Where an advertiser is unwilling or unable to stick to the rules and continues to mislead consumers or business we can refer to National Trading Standards who will consider statutory action, including warnings and seeking criminal prosecutions or civil enforcement orders.
ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said:
“We welcome the robust enforcement action taken by National Trading Standards and the London Borough of Camden against Electronic Healing. It’s a significant and important outcome and underlines our commitment to protecting consumers from misleading advertising claims. Moreover, misleading health claims have a real potential to cause harm. It also sends out a clear and strong message to advertisers that, where they are unwilling to cooperate and stick to the rules, there can be legal consequences.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“These adverts deliberately misled consumers by making false claims around the products’ healing properties, which saw it promote one product as equipment that could help cure cancer. Such claims can be dangerous to consumers and I am delighted that our partnership working with colleagues at the ASA and the London Borough of Camden has led to these sentences.”
Jonathan Simpson, Camden Council’s Cabinet member for Community Safety, said:
“Following changes at a national level, Camden Council stepped in to provide the ASA’s legal backstop in relation to misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair non-broadcast advertising. By taking this lead we play an important role in helping to ensure that not just in Camden, but right across the country, consumers aren’t unfairly misled and that there is a level playing field for businesses to operate within.”