Claims on www.hollandandbarrett.com "Qualified to advise" page stated "Our associates are: Qualified to advise ... Associates at H&B have a nationally recognised qualification in nutrition and supplements. Whether it's a question about Vitamin C or Whey Protein, Echinacea or Fish Oil, to find out which one of our hundreds of high quality supplements is right for you, pop into your nearest Holland & Barrett store to speak to an associate who is qualified to advise you on your nutritional supplement requirements. If you are taking supplements, take our advice. Holland & Barrett associates are now officially 'Qualified to Advise' ... Health, sports nutrition and supplement advice from some of our experts ...".
An internet user challenged whether the web page irresponsibly exaggerated the level of expertise of the Holland & Barrett staff, because he understood that they were not qualified to provide individual or general health advice to customers.
Holland & Barrett said their compulsory retail staff training programme was nationally accredited and concluded with a QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) qualification. They explained that the training programme was not confined to the products they sold, but covered body systems, health, ailments, nutrition, food supplementation and herbal remedies. The course consisted of numerous workbooks and learning tools and staff were expected to use other external materials, attend courses and pass online examinations for each level of qualification. They said details of the accredited staff training programme were clearly explained on the "Qualified to Advise" page on their website.
Holland & Barrett believed their staff were qualified in nutrition and supplements and had provided advice on supplements for many years. However, the safety of their customers was priority at all times and staff were aware to refer a customer to other health professionals when necessary.
The ASA understood that the Holland & Barrett training programme led to a QCF qualification, which was recognised by Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation). Holland & Barrett provided the ASA with copies of the course work, which was extensive and covered a number of areas including safety, vitamins and minerals, healthy eating, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements and common ailments. The course highlighted those conditions for which staff were not allowed to recommend products and the need to obtain significant medical details from customers before suggesting products.
We considered it was clear from the claims "find out which one of our hundreds of high quality supplements is right for you", "an associate who is qualified to advise you on your nutritional supplement requirements" and "If you are taking supplements, take our advice" that the advice given would be in relation to nutrition and supplements, rather than general or individual health advice. We noted the claim "Health, sports nutrition and supplement advice from some of our experts" referred to "health", but consider that in the context of the other claims on the page, consumers would understand the reference to be in relation to the nutrition and supplement advice given, rather than general health advice.
We considered that the course gave participants suitable knowledge to be able to advise on nutrition and supplements and the advertising had not exaggerated their expertise in that area. We also considered that, because the qualification obtained at the end of the training programme was a recognised qualification, the claims that staff were qualified to advise on nutrition and supplements were unlikely to mislead. We concluded therefore that the advertising did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility), 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 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.