Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The website for Mind Body Reset www.mindbodyreset.co.uk, a complementary therapy provider, seen on 11 February 2019. Text on the home page listed the following conditions “ADHD- Fibro - Depression - Stress - Anxiety - PTSD - ME/CFS”.
Text on the “FAQ” page stated, “Mental Health problems are caused by imbalances within the physics of the body, not its chemistry or biology hence why modern medicine has failed to establish any successful treatment for mental health … Our treatment is the only method that is capable to [sic] targeting and possibly correcting these imbalances which may be causing the mental health condition”. Further text on the “About” page stated “Once you know that poor mental health is caused by various imbalances within the physics of the body you will appreciate why ‘talking about it’ and drugs seldom work. Continually talking about a negative traumatic event only reinforces the trauma of that event and makes it harder to forget it, it is the exact opposite of what one should be doing to ‘move on’ from that negative event. Talking about your emotional state is equally futile as it [sic] not within your conscious control, it’s how you ‘feel’ which is caused by various imbalances within the body that culminate in the feeling of ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’, ‘stress’ etc and need to be corrected”.
Text on the page headed “Why is this treatment so successful?” stated “We have designed treatment programs to help with ADHD, Stress, Anxiety, Depression, SAD/ME/CFS, PTSD and Fibro to target the possible causes of these conditions in a way that no other treatment process is able to do or achieve”. Further text pages listed various conditions and stated “Depression is a common and sometimes serious illness that negatively affects how you feel … we can help to change your mood and lift the clouds of depression from £295.00 …”.
The ASA received two complaints:
1. One complainant challenged whether the efficacy claims for the treatment were misleading and could be substantiated.2. The second complainant challenged whether the ad discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.
The advertisers declined to identify themselves in response to ASA enquiries, other than as “The Editorial Committee”, and other than an incomplete address there was no information on the website, including in relation to terms and conditions and the collection of personal data, as to their identity.
1. The Editorial Committee of Mind Body Reset believed that the CAP Advertising Code did not apply to the complaint. They said that the claims under investigation were not directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods or services as there was no facility to purchase anything from those two pages. There was no function to order goods or services. The pages were editorial content setting out expertise, fact and opinion and were therefore excluded from the Code. They said the link to “book now” on the FAQ page only linked to an enquiry page, not a booking page, and there was no link to book treatment. The text “book now” was an oversight which they would change to read “enquiry”. They maintained there was no legal requirement to conduct clinical trials into a complementary therapy or a treatment, like theirs, that provided help. They said they held substantial evidence in the form of client feedback which demonstrated that they had helped clients with the conditions listed. They believed that evidence was appropriate for their form of non-medical therapy.
2. They said the treatment process was a complementary therapy which by definition did not exclude any other forms of treatments. They said that a treatment provider could offer many forms of help and some could be more effective than others. It would be for consumers to assess the ‘help’ available and decide whether that form of help was suitable for their needs. They said they had seen evidence which suggested that the help available through their treatment was and could be effective, but they provided no individual assurances or guarantees to any consumer as was stated on the FAQ page. They believed that there was no treatment which was essential for someone with a mental health condition and therefore it was impossible to discourage something which did not exist. Any individual was free to seek medical supervision if they chose to do so and that was not discouraged, nor could it be prohibited; it was an individual’s decision and legal right. They said that complementary therapy by nature was a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that were used together with conventional medicine.
The ASA noted that the “About Us” web page included the statements “Real Treatment Help”, “Each treatment takes just 2 to 4 hours with most people seeing an improvement in their mental and/or physical health within 24 hours and beyond” and “There is no need to struggle any more with mental health problems…please call xxxx or enquire now …”. Further statements were “We have designed treatment programs to help with ADHD, Stress, Anxiety, Depression, SAD/ME/CFS, PTSD and Fibro to target the possible causes of these conditions in a way that no other treatment process is able to do or achieve”.
We considered that in the context of a website for a complementary therapy, those statements amounted to marketing claims promoting the services of a complementary therapy in the field of mental health. The website also contained contact information such as a phone number, the locations of treatment centres and referred to ‘clients’. There were also lists of conditions along with prices and information on refund processes if treatment appointments were not completed. We therefore considered that the website was marketing material and was within the remit of the CAP Code.
The claims on the website referred to the treatment of various conditions and ailments including Anxiety, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, stress and Fibromyalgia. We considered the claims made implied that the treatment had been proven to be effective in the treatment of those conditions. While Mind Body Reset said they had feedback from clients who had been helped by the treatment, we had not seen that feedback and patient self-reporting alone was not sufficient to demonstrate efficacy. We therefore concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading. On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 and 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The CAP Code stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis or treatment for such conditions unless that advice diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. On the FAQ page the ad referred to Mind Body Reset’s treatment as “the only method that is capable to targeting and possibly correcting these imbalances which may be causing mental health condition”. The ad went on to list conditions such as PTSD, ADHD, SAD and Depression all of which we considered to be conditions that advice, diagnosis or treatment needed to be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
The ad further stated “because all other treatment methods to help with mental health problems achieve very low success rates or have unpleasant side effects” and “one approach to restoring mental health is to ‘talk about it’ or to use chemistry (drugs) but neither of these methods work very well for a very simple reason ... Most clients had already tried the usual channels to improve their mental health but found they had little to no impact as they couldn’t correct ‘their’ imbalances”. We considered that those would be understood to represent superiority claims for the advertiser’s treatments over other methods. However, Mind Body Reset had not supplied evidence that showed that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. We concluded that the ad discouraged essential treatment for conditions which medical supervision should be sought and therefore breached the Code. On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The claims must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Mind Body Reset to ensure their ads did not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, such as ADHD, Depression, SAD and PTSD. We also told Mind Body Reset to ensure that they did not state or imply that they could treat other conditions, for example anxiety, stress, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome unless they held suitable evidence to substantiate the claims.