An email from 3D-lipo, sent on 26 May 2021, for beauty treatment machines, stated “POTENTIAL TO EARN £1000’s WHILST PAYING JUST £50 PER MONTH*”. Further down, the email included the claim “Boost your takings by £36,000** over 6 months with 3D Trilogyice Based on one 60 minute laser hair removal treatment per day – paying a total of just £300 + VAT!”.
Below that, a table detailed estimated earnings for clinics that purchased the machine, which included, for a 60-minute laser hair removal session, “£300 PER TREATMENT £1,500 1 WK £6,000 1 MTH £36,000 6 MTHS £72,000 1 YR”. Below the table smaller text stated, “*Earnings calculator based on one treatment per day, a five day working week, four week month, six month period and 52 working week year. Prices based on average recommended pricing and treatment time, minus cost of consumables. Cost of staff and clinic overheads are not included.”
The complainant, the owner of a clinic, who understood that the earnings claims were likely to be unrepresentative of typical experience, challenged whether the earnings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
3D-Lip Ltd responded that they were not making an earnings claim, but highlighting that one hours’ worth of treatment per day would generate £36,000 worth of revenue, if the treatments were priced at the recommended retail pricing, as was explained with the claim ““*Earnings calculator based on one treatment per day, a five day working week, four week month, six month period and 52 working week year. Prices based on average recommended pricing and treatment time, minus cost of consumables. Cost of staff and clinic overheads are not included”.
3D-lipo said that it was reasonable to expect that when a clinic invested in equipment they would be keen to encourage their clients to use the technology, and so as part of the package they included promotional banners, access to their marketing portal and training from their Business Development Managers to give pointers as to how to market the product.
A typical aesthetics clinic was open eight hours per day, so they considered that estimating that a new technology, which was being heavily marketed, would be used for one one-hour session per day (i.e. 12.5% of the clinic’s business hours) was not unreasonable. Additionally, their calculations were based on five days per week, but many clinics operated six days per week. They also said that their calculation was based around a four-week month, rather than the full calendar month.
In order to substantiate the price claims, they provided information from a 3D-lipo clinic which had the machine installed. The information showed that for single appointments of 30 minutes, the machine accounted for 9.6% of their business and, for full 60-minute sessions, 14.5%. They said that the main service of that clinic was not the product advertised, and therefore their estimation of 12.5% of a clinic’s business time over a period of five days (or one hour per day) was substantiated.
They said that a web page on the NHS website, about laser hair removal, said that single treatment prices may cost around £85 for the upper lip, £110 for under the arms, £130 for the bikini line and £270 for the arms, and that sessions may take from 15 minutes to over an hour. They provided the example of two retailers, one who used the service itself and one who used the generic technology, and both used similar prices to the recommended pricing in the ad.
They also provided a copy of a blog post from an aesthetics clinic which listed a range of prices for hair removal treatments, and a price list from a clinic which had 3D-lipo’s equipment installed. They also provided a link to a YouTube video they had produced, posted in March 2021, in which a representative from a clinic said they had achieved £35,000 in sales since the most recent Covid-19 lockdown, after purchasing a different type of 3D-lipo’s equipment.
3D-Lipo said that, even if consumers did interpret the claim as an earning claim, they provided an example of one clinic that had earned £48,000 on average over the six months. They also said that their recommended retail pricing was justified for the above reasons, and that laser removal was in the top five aesthetic treatments in the UK, and for the reasons already given, that one hour’s treatment per day was pessimistic, given that it would total only 10% of revenue in a single room set up, and 3.3% in a three-room set up.
The ASA considered that businesses to which the ad had been sent would understand from the claims “Boost your takings by £36,000** over 6 months with 3D Trilogyice Based on one 60 minute laser hair removal treatment per day – paying a total of just £300 + VAT” that £36,000 was representative of the earnings that could be achieved by clinics that purchased the product.
We therefore needed to see data that demonstrated that the earnings figures stated in the ad were representative of, and did not overstate, the potential earnings that could be achieved using the machine. We noted that the testimonial in the YouTube video, which suggested the figures that 3D-lipo had presented in the ad were similar to those achievable for a single clinic, related to a different technology than that advertised in the email. We considered it was therefore not relevant to the claims in the ad. We considered that in order to substantiate the claims, we needed to see figures from a range of clinics which had purchased the advertised machine in order to show that the earnings figures were representative. Although we had seen one example of a clinic that had achieved more than the amount advertised, we needed to see a wider range of earnings figures to demonstrate that their earnings, and the earnings in the ad, were representative.
We acknowledged that 3D-lipo had provided evidence that one clinic had used the machine more than the estimated usage referenced in the ad, and that the price-per-session on which they had based their earnings claims was similar to the prices quoted by other clinics and the NHS website. However, without figures from a range of clinics that used the machines, we were unable to assess whether the amount of use, number of treatments performed and overall earnings over six months were representative. On that basis, we concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 20.7 (Business opportunities)
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told 3D-lipo Ltd not to make earnings claims in their advertising unless they could substantiate that the earnings were representative of, and did not overstate, the earnings that could be achieved by clinics that purchased the advertised equipment.