A website, www.hay-band.co.uk, stated "Fed up with your summer being ruined by constantly itchy, watery eyes? Tired of the headaches, blocked nose and the sneezing? Not happy to take powerful drug treatments which make you drowsy? Welcome to the Hay-Band". A subsequent link, "Why Hay-Bands?" stated "... relief from the symptoms of hay fever".
The complainant challenged whether the claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
SCD Ltd submitted two papers relating to the effects of acupuncture on allergies. They also provided web-links to various websites related to acupressure points. They said Hay-Band was designed to apply pressure to a recognised acupressure or acupuncture point which they said was used to treat hay fever. They did not believe they were making claims that their product could treat hay fever. After receipt of the complaint, Hay-Band removed the text "... to provide completely natural relief from the symptoms of hay fever".
The ASA acknowledged the papers and links submitted by SCD Ltd. However, we noted they related to acupuncture, not acupressure and therefore did not relate to the product's purported mode of action. The various web-links provided were short statements about acupressure points and not scientific studies. Although we informed the advertiser that evidence in the form of clinical trials would normally be required to support health related claims, this was not supplied.
We considered the text "relief from the symptoms of hay fever" and the list of symptoms were likely to give the impression of efficacy. The website also featured an illustration of a woman in a field of flowers surrounded with what appeared to be pollen grains. The illustration was accompanied by the text "hay-band ... Season long relief ... Say goodbye to flower power". We welcomed Hay-Bands removal of the text "completely natural relief from the symptoms of hay fever". However, we considered that along with the product name, the list of conditions, and the illustration with accompanying text made direct and indirect claims of efficacy. Because the ad made claims to relieve hay fever which were not supported by evidence, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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.
Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. and 12.6 12.6 Marketers should not falsely claim that a product is able to cure illness, dysfunction or malformations. (Medicines, medical devices, health and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told SCD Ltd to hold robust substantiation before making claims for their product.