A sales promotion on Groupon.co.uk for cosmetic treatments, seen on 30 November 2011, stated "Choice of Facial Injection Treatments On One (£49) or Two (£89) Areas at Bath Facial Aesthetics (Up to 77% Off) ...". Text underneath stated "Highlights: GP with 20 years' experience. Member of the British Medical Association and General Medical Council. The Deal: 30 minutes treatment (approx.). Includes consultation. Choice of crow's feet, between eyebrows and forehead area. Available at two clinics ...". Further text stated "Choose from the following options: £49 for a choice of facial injection treatments on one are (up to 77% off), £89 for a choice of facial injection treatments on two areas (up to 67% off) ...".
Two complainants challenged whether the sales promotion advertised a prescription-only medicine to the public.
Groupon said the promotion was for a voucher which could be redeemed against services offered by a supplier, in this case a choice of facial injection treatments, rather than for a product or service itself. They understood the voucher to which the promotion related could be redeemed against a choice of dermal fillers from Restylane and Juvederm on a selection of one, two (or more, subject to a supplementary fee) facial areas. They did not believe these treatments, to which the headline "A choice of facial injection treatments" related, were prescription-only medicines. They said they often ran promotions where customers were able to choose what they redeemed the voucher against and the content of the promotion reflected that choice, eschewing any direct or indirect promotion of a specific option which may be available to customers. They acknowledged that the promotion referred to crow's feet, between the eyebrows and forehead as the areas which could be treated and said their understanding was that dermal fillers were commonly used to soften crow's feet and wrinkles on the forehead. They said this was evident from doing a quick internet search. In relation to the savings figures, they said the top-end saving available to customers, communicated via the use of "up to", was calculated taking into account the full range of treatment options available to customers. They said that, in itself, the advertising of the highest price saving did not constitute a promotion of the product to which that saving related. In summary, they said the promotion was designed to sell a voucher which could be redeemed against a choice of facial injection treatments at Bath Facial Aesthetics, not a particular product or service. Whether or not the voucher could be redeemed for Botox, the promotion did not promote that particular aspect of the offer and was therefore not promoting a prescription-only medicine.
The ASA did not agree with Groupon that the promotion was for a voucher which could be redeemed against a choice of Restylane and Juvaderm dermal filler treatments. We noted that the promotion did not specifically refer to Restylane or Juvaderm, or dermal filler treatments. Although the promotion did not use the term Botox, we nevertheless considered that the reference to "Facial Injection Treatments" in the promotion referred to Botox for the following reasons.
First, the ASA made enquiries with Bath Facial Aesthetics and were told that where a consumer had purchased the offer for one facial injection (£49), this was for Botox, whereas where a consumer had purchased the offer for two facial injections (£89), they could choose between either two Botox injections or one dermal filler.
Second, the promotion referred to "Choice of crow's feet, between eyebrows and forehead area". We noted that on Bath Facial Aesthetics' website, under the "Wrinkle Reducing Injections" section, which related directly to Botox injections, text stated "... many patients find that the wrinkle reducing effects last longer in the forehead than the crow's feet, so will often request a top up for the crow's feet area before the other areas ...", whereas the section on "Dermal Fillers" featured images of a woman being injected into the area around her mouth and lips and text stating "Commonly treated areas include lines around the lips, both above and below the mouth, lines between the nose and mouth and also frown and laughter lines that have not completely softened with Botox". Whilst we noted Groupon's comments that dermal fillers were commonly used to soften crow's feet and wrinkles on the forehead, the impression given by Bath Facial Aesthetic's website was that Botox was more commonly used for crow's feet and the forehead areas, than dermal fillers.
Thirdly, we used the prices quoted on Bath Facial Aesthetic's website to calculate the percentage saving off the full price of the treatment, using the discounted prices quoted in the promotion (£49 and £89 respectively). We noted that the usual price of one treatment of Botox was between £190 and £210 and that 77% off the top price (£210) was £49, the exact price quoted in the promotion. We noted that the usual price of two treatments of Botox was between £250 and £270 and that 67% off the top price (£270) was £89, the exact price quoted in the promotion. We carried out the same calculations in relation to the normal prices of dermal fillers on the website and found that the percentage saving exceeded 77% when using the prices quoted in the promotion (£49 for one and £89 for two treatments).
We further noted that Groupon had been unable to provide any documentary evidence to show that the offer was for dermal fillers. We noted their comment that whether or not the offer was for Botox, the promotion did not promote that particular aspect of the offer and was therefore not promoting a prescription-only medicine, although we disagreed. We considered that because the savings figures appear to have been calculated on the basis of Botox treatments, rather than dermal fillers, and in the absence of evidence to show that the promotion was for dermal fillers, we concluded that the promotion was for Botox, a prescription-only medicine.
The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.12 12.12 Prescription-only medicines or prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public. (Medicines).
The promotion must not appear again in its current form. We told Groupon to take care when promoting offers of this type to ensure they do not inadvertently advertise a prescription-only medicine.