Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Two websites for an alternative health practitioner.
a. The website www.drsam.co.uk stated "Dr Sam Shohet is the leading Alternative Health Practitioner in Harley Street, London and Woking, Surrey."
b. The website www.integralhealth.org stated "Dr Sam Shohet BDS MGDS LiAc MBAcC ICAK … Dr Sam's background lies in conventional medicine, having started his career as a reconstructive dental surgeon. He was one of the very few dental practitioners in the UK to become a member of General Dental Surgery of the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons of England."
The complainant, a GP, challenged whether:
1. the websites (a and b) misleadingly implied that the advertiser was a medical doctor; and
2. the claim on the website (b) misleadingly implied that the advertiser was a dentist.
1. & 2. Integral Health Ltd t/a Dr Sam said that he had qualified as a dentist and therefore he was entitled to use the title 'Dr', as allowed by the General Dental Council (GDC). He also supplied a certificate from the University of London confirming his degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery, and a certificate to support the claim that he was a member of General Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA considered that in order for an advertiser to claim or imply that they were a dentist, they must be registered with the GDC, and the title 'Dr' could only be used if it was made clear that it was a courtesy title only and that the practitioner did not hold a general medical qualification. Integral Health's website included the wording "Dr Sam Shohet BDS" and the reference to membership of General Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, which was likely to be interpreted by website users to mean that the advertiser was a practising dental surgeon. We contacted the GDC who confirmed that the advertiser was not on their register and was therefore not permitted to claim or imply that he was a dentist. Although the advertiser held the degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), and was therefore entitled to use the suffix BDS that should have been followed with a statement clarifying that he was not a practicing dentist.
Because the websites gave the impression that the advertiser was a qualified medical doctor and a practising dentist, when that was not the case, we concluded they were misleading.
The websites 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) and 12.3 12.3 Marketers offering individual treatments, especially those that are physically invasive, may be asked by the media and the ASA to provide full details together with information about those who supervise and administer them. Practitioners must have relevant and recognised qualifications. Marketers should encourage consumers to take independent medical advice before committing themselves to significant treatments, including those that are physically invasive. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told Integral Health Ltd not to use the title 'Dr' in his advertising, unless he was medically qualified, and to remove claims that gave the impression that he was a practising dental surgeon.