Claims on a website, www.boots.com, promoted "Little Me Organics Oh So Gentle Hair and Body Wash". Text stated "Little Me Organics Oh So Gentle Hair and Body Wash has pear, mallow & organic aloe vera to clean and moisturise your baby's delicate hair and sensitive skin".
The complainant challenged whether claims that the product was "organic" were misleading, because they implied it met an independent organic standard.
Boots UK Ltd (Boots) said they understood that there was no legal definition of what constituted "organic" with reference to cosmetics. They stated that "Little Me Organics Oh So Gentle Hair and Body Wash" was the brand name of the product and "Little Me" was a registered trademark. They believed that a reasonable consumer would understand that the product contained some organic ingredients, namely pear, mallow and aloe vera, as stated in the product description and on the product label. They stated that they had taken the challenged claims directly from the product label and had simply reproduced them in an electronic format. They therefore considered that that was no different to an in-store shelf display that customers were able to view when purchasing the product.
Boots provided organic certification for the organic ingredients in the product from four independent bodies: The Soil Association, US. Mayacert, Quality Certification Services and Eco Cert. They also supplied information regarding the percentage breakdown of the organic ingredients in the product which totalled less than 5%.
The ASA understood that the product contained pear, mallow and aloe vera sourced from two suppliers, which had been certified as organic by four independent bodies: The Soil Association, Eco Cert, Mayacert and Quality Certification Services. We acknowledged that there was no legal standard for organic cosmetics in the UK, but we also understood that a number of independent certification bodies, with their own organic standards, existed. We understood that although these standards differed, they defined a product as "organic" only if it contained a high proportion of organic ingredients. We noted, however, that the product contained less than 5% of the organic ingredients.
We considered that consumers would understand the claim "Little Me Organics" to mean the product met an independently defined organic standard or used a high proportion of organic ingredients. Because the product used a low proportion of the organic ingredients and we understood that there was no UK standard for organic cosmetics, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Boots UK Ltd not to promote the product in future marketing communications unless they included a prominent statement disclaiming the implied "organic" claim.