Sumary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Three ads for a beauty clinic, Secret Surgery Ltd:
a. An Instagram reel posted by Secret Surgery Ltd, seen on 29 January 2022, was headed “Toxin national Shortage” stated “National shortages of toxin has skyrocketed product costs”. It featured a video of a woman saying “I want to … tell you about the national shortage of … Botox. Now, with immediate effect, we have to implement a £25 price rise” and “What I would advise you to do is, if you are planning on having it in the next month or so, please do get booked in as soon as possible. I need to process your prescriptions as soon as possible so that we can get your product at the right price, before prices go up further, as we can’t guarantee that they won’t or that product will even be available” and “Do get booked in as quick as you can”.
b. A post on Secret Surgery Ltd's Facebook page, seen on 29 January 2022, was headed “National Shortage of Toxin & Price Hike” and showed the same video announcement as ad (a).
c. A post on Secret Surgery Ltd's Facebook page, seen on 29 January 2022, stated “Toxin National Shortage. There’s a national shortage of toxins. Which is expected to last for at least 2 months. Toxin is a strictly controlled prescription only medication. It cannot be bulk purchased in advance. Each patients [sic] prescription is limited to 1 vial purchase. Prices of product have also increased £25 which means we need to increase our price too! We’d like to request clients get in touch ASAP to book in, as it’s expected to run out”.
1. One complainant, a Trustee of the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners, challenged whether the ads breached the Code because they advertised a prescription-only medicine (POM) to the public.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ads were irresponsible because by claiming there was a shortage of Botox, and that consumers needed to act quickly if they wanted the treatment, they put pressure on consumers to have the procedure.
ResponseSecret Surgery Ltd did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Secret Surgery Ltd’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in the future.
The CAP Code stated that POMs or prescription-only medical treatments must not be advertised to the public.
The ASA understood that Botox was a POM. The ads invited readers to book Botox treatments and were visible to anyone visiting Secret Surgery’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
We therefore considered the ads promoted a POM to the general public and concluded that they breached the Code.
On that point, the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.12 12.12 Prescription-only medicines or prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
Notwithstanding that the advertising of Botox treatment to the general public was prohibited, we also assessed whether the ads were irresponsible because they put pressure on consumers to have the procedure.
We considered that consumers were likely to understand from the ads that they should book an appointment as a matter of urgency because there was a national shortage of Botox and because of that, its price would increase and stocks might run out. For example, ads (a) and (b) stated “I want to … tell you about the national shortage of … Botox. Now, with immediate effect, we have to implement a £25 price rise” and “I need to process your prescriptions as soon as possible so that we can get your product at the right price, before prices go up further, as we can’t guarantee that they won’t or that product will even be available”. Ad (c) stated “There’s a national shortage of toxins. Which is expected to last for at least 2 months”, “Prices of product have also increased £25” and “it’s expected to run out”.
The ads also featured a call to action to “get booked in as quick as possible” (in ads (a) and (b)) and “We’d like to request clients get in touch ASAP to book in” in ad (c).We considered that the decision to have Botox, an invasive cosmetic procedure, was not one that should be taken lightly and that it was irresponsible to put pressure on consumers to act quickly to have Botox.
We therefore concluded that the ads also breached the Code on that basis.On that point, the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Secret Surgery Ltd not to promote prescription-only medicines to the general public in future and to ensure that their advertising is responsible. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.