A promotion in the regional press for fat reduction shorts, in November 2011, was headlined "Lose 2 jean sizes with HOTPANTS Buy them for just £29 - a saving of 33%". Text below stated "HOTPANTS have been specially designed with celu-lite technology, that works hard to reduce body fat and the visible appearance of cellulite. Scientifically engineered, they increase perspiration by up to 80% to flush out fat cells and toxins. Wear them indoors or out, under or over clothes, in the gym, at work, and even while you sleep!" The ad featured a picture of a woman running while wearing the shorts. Text in a yellow circle stated "EXCLUSIVE for Evening Standard Readers". The ad included details of how to redeem the offer online.
A doctor and two members of the public challenged whether the claims "works hard to reduce body fat" and "increase perspiration by up to 80% to flush out fat cells and toxins" were misleading and could be substantiated.
Celu-Lite Ltd (Celu-Lite) said they were aware that they had previously provided an assurance to the ASA that they would not make any efficacy claims for the Zaggora Hotpants (HP) product. They said the appearance of the current ad was an error and they were aware that it breached both the terms of the previous assurance and the Code and apologised for that. They said the ad was removed from the Evening Standard when the complaint was received and that the relevant claims had been removed from all their marketing communications.
Celu-Lite said they had thousands of user reviews which vouched for the efficacy of the product. Notwithstanding that, they were currently in the process of obtaining evidence for the efficacy of their product and had commissioned research by the University of Brighton, the results of which they received after the current complaint had been raised by the ASA. They explained that the evidence did not, however, relate to the claims made in the ad and they would now seek to formulate claims which were based on the evidence which they had in hand.
The Evening Standard said Celu-Lite had drafted the ad and specifically confirmed that they were in possession of appropriate evidence to substantiate the claims made. They said Celu-Lite had also guaranteed that the ad was compliant with the CAP Code. The Evening Standard said they were not aware of the previous complaint and were unhappy to learn that the ad was in breach of an assurance provided by Celu-Lite to the ASA.
The ASA had previously resolved a complaint informally with Celu-Lite on the basis that they would not make efficacy claims for HP in relation to fat reduction or the breakdown of fat and toxins, because they did not hold robust substantiation to show the product was effective. We understood from Celu-Lite's response that, at the time the current ad was published, they were not in possession of evidence to substantiate the current challenged claims made for HP and that the evidence they were now obtaining would not substantiate those claims either.
Because we understood that Celu-Lite did not hold evidence for the claims made we concluded that the claims were unsubstantiated and therefore misleading.
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), 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. and 13.9 13.9 Marketing communications must not contain claims that people can lose precise amounts of weight within a stated period or, except for marketing communications for surgical clinics, establishments and the like that comply with rule 12.3, that weight or fat can be lost from specific parts of the body. (Weight control and slimming).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Celu-Lite not to claim that Hotpants could reduce fat, increase perspiration or flush out fat cells and toxins. We told Celu-Lite not to make efficacy claims for Hotpants until they held robust scientific evidence to substantiate them. We told them to consult CAP's Copy Advice team for a view on such evidence before using it as the basis for claims.