An ad on the website for Debenhams, www.debenhams.com, was headed "Black seamless 'SlimTech' cropped leggings" and stated "These black cropped leggings from Elle Sport are seam free with a fold over logo waist. They have 'SlimTech' technology which is designed to accelerate fat loss". Further text stated "Cosmetic formulas are made from the finest natural ingredients which have been proven to be effective in slimming, smoothing, toning, & moisturising 90% polyamide, 10% elastane Elle Sport 'SlimTech' is a slimming, sculpting and shape enhancing active-wear collection for women. A unique and proven technology fully supported by a clinical sports study Key benefits: Accelerates fat loss Instantly flattens the stomach using seamless shape wear control technology Reduces muscular tiredness Smoothes and moisturises the skin helping to reduce cellulite Lifts, tones and moisturises Billions of microcapsules containing natural active ingredients are fixed to the fabric fibres. The friction against the skin when worn (in the gym or during normal daily activity) breaks the microcapsules dispersing the active ingredients over the skin".
The complainant challenged whether the claim that the leggings could accelerate fat loss could be substantiated.
Debenhams Retail plc (Debenhams) said they had prepared the ad using information provided to them by their supplier of the product. The manufacturers of the product had sold it since 2010 under their own brand. The garment was treated with a microencapsulated cosmetic formula which included various ingredients, including red algae, Sophora japonica and Copaiba, which they had been informed accelerated fat loss and moisturised the skin,. They provided three studies and a presentation, which they said appeared to provide evidence both as a scientific basis for the effect of the ingredients and for the slimming effect on test subjects. They said the studies were carried out by a reputable independent third party.
We considered that consumers would understand from the ad that robust scientific evidence demonstrated that wearing the leggings would accelerate fat loss, and that they could therefore expect weight loss and a slimming effect from wearing them. We considered that the use of the microencapsulated cosmetic formula to accelerate fat loss was a recent technology, and it therefore needed to be supported by a robust body of scientific evidence. Debenhams provided three studies in support of the claim, although none had been peer reviewed or published. None of the studies were comparative or blind, and the test subjects and those carrying out the studies were aware of the aims of the study, which we considered could have affected the results. The studies involved subjects wearing the garments for eight hours a day for periods of five days, with three such wearing periods taking place over 28 days. We considered it was unlikely most consumers who purchased the product would wear it for this amount of time because it was marketed as a sports product. The first study measured changes in thigh and stomach circumference after 28 days, but the results were not statistically significant for thigh measurement and were less than 1 cm on average for the stomach measurement. The second study showed average changes of less than 1 cm for two out of the four measurement sites, which the study said were statistically significant, and the other two measurement sites did not show statistically significant changes. The third study was based around a self-evaluation questionnaire which did not focus on weight loss. However, the weight changes of subjects after 28 days were recorded and there were no significant changes. We did not consider that the studies formed a sufficiently robust body of evidence to support the claim that the leggings could accelerate fat loss, or lead to weight loss or slimming. We therefore concluded the claim had not been substantiated.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 13.1 13.1 A weight-reduction regime in which the intake of energy is lower than its output is the most common self-treatment for achieving weight reduction. Any claim made for the effectiveness or action of a weight-reduction method or product must be backed, if applicable, by rigorous trials on people; testimonials that are not supported by trials do not constitute substantiation. (Weight control and slimming).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Debenhams not to state or imply the product could accelerate weight or fat loss.