One point was investigated and resolved informally with the advertiser’s agreement to make changes.
Two complainants, including the JCCP Trustee, who understood Dr Guiseppie was not a member of The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) or the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Dr Guiseppie 's image was removed from the website as he no longer worked for The Belvedere Clinic.
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
The home page of the Belvedere Clinic website www.belvedereclinic.co.uk, seen in December 2022, featured text that stated, “HALF PRICE BREAST ENLARGEMENT. For the next six weeks only (offer ends December 31st 2022)”. Beneath the text featured an image of a woman in a bikini lying on cushions. Text beneath the image said, “Call the Belvedere Clinic NOW for further information”.
The page featured further claims that the Belvedere Clinic was, “one of the most successful cosmetic surgery companies in the UK today” and it was “a leading expert in cosmetic surgery and breast surgery”.
The “about us” page on the website stated, “All our surgeons are fully qualified and members of BAAPS, BAPRAS or the FRCS, and registered with the general medical council. Two of our surgeons are consultant plastic & cosmetic surgeons and leaders in the field of cosmetic surgery”.
The ASA received three complaints, including from a Trustee of the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP):
1. All complainants, who believed the time-limited half price promotion put pressure on consumers to book a surgical procedure, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
2. Two complainants, including the JCCP Trustee, who understood Mr Nasser was not a member of The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) or the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), challenged whether the ad was misleading.
3. Two complainants, including the JCCP Trustee, who pointed out that no means of verification were provided for the claims “one of the most successful cosmetic surgery companies in the UK today” and “a leading expert in cosmetic surgery and breast surgery”, challenged whether these were misleading.
1. The Belvedere Clinic Ltd said they never put consumers under pressure, but if they had available space to offer discounted surgery it was right to make their customers aware of them. They always wanted to be explicit with their offers, and so made clear when the offer ended. They understood that if they ran promotions they should not be open-ended.
2. The Belvedere Clinic said Mr Nasser was a member of FRCS. They provided evidence that Mr Nasser was registered with the General Medical Council and had Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).
3. The Belvedere Clinic said they had been carrying out cosmetic surgery, including breast surgery, for many years and that most companies had not been established as long as them. They believed that information on the website about when they had been established was sufficient to verify the claims.
The CAP Code required marketing communications to be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. The ASA considered that marketers needed to take particular care when executing and administering promotions for surgical procedures.
The promotion explained that consumers could obtain the half price saving for breast enlargement by booking before 31 December 2022. We understood the promotion had been posted towards the end of November and six weeks before the closing date. Therefore, if consumers had seen the promotion early, they had up to six weeks to decide whether to apply. However, we noted the ad continued to appear on the home page of the website and therefore had the same prominence on the website, regardless of the date it was seen. A consumer who entered the website in late December would have seen the promotion with only a week or less to respond.
We considered that a six-week timeframe for consumers to respond to the promotion may not have put undue pressure on them to make a decision regarding surgery. However, a shorter timeframe could have created excessive pressure. We considered that for promotions for cosmetic interventions advertised online, promoters should have taken steps to ensure that casual browsers could not encounter the promotion at a late stage, when they did not have adequate time to consider it, for instance by archiving the page a reasonable time before the closing date. However, in this case we understood the promotion had remained accessible with equal prominence on the website until the closing date. Because it was possible for browsers of the website to encounter the promotion at a very late stage in the process when they might feel hurried into applying, we concluded the ad was irresponsible.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising).
The CAP Code stated marketing communications must not claim that the marketer (or any other entity referred to), the marketing communication or the advertised product has been approved, endorsed or authorised by any public or other body if it has not or without complying with the terms of the approval, endorsement or authorisation.
Regarding Mr Nasser, the evidence provided showed that he was registered with the General Medical Council and had Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS). However, we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that Mr Nasser, at the time he worked for the Belvedere Clinic, had membership of BAAPS, BAPRAS or the FRCS.On that basis we concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were therefore likely to mislead.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.50 (Endorsements and Testimonials).
The CAP Code required that marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative features of those products, which may include price.
We considered the claims “one of the most successful cosmetic surgery companies in the UK today” and “a leading expert in cosmetic surgery and breast surgery” would be understood by consumers to be a comparison with identifiable competitors. As such, the claims should have compared one or more features of their service, and a means of verifiability should have been provided.
Belvedere Clinic said the claims they were “a leading” and “one of the most successful” cosmetic surgery companies were based on the longevity of the company and that information was made clear on their website.
Where verification was needed, marketers should include, or direct consumers to, sufficient objective information and data to ensure that they can check accuracy for themselves. Although the ad mentioned the age of the clinic, it was unclear that this information was linked to the “leading” and “successful” claims. In addition, claims such as “leading” and “successful” were more likely to be understood as references to turnover and expertise, rather than the age of the establishment. Evidence to support the claims as they were likely to be understood was not made available.
We concluded the claims “one of the most successful cosmetic surgery companies in the UK today” and “a leading expert in cosmetic surgery and breast surgery” were not appropriately supported and the ad was, therefore, likely to mislead.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 and 3.35 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told The Belvedere Clinic Ltd that promotions for cosmetic surgery should be responsible and not put consumers under pressure; they should not make claims relating to qualifications or professional membership if they did not hold substantiation in evidence; and to ensure comparisons with identifiable competitors were appropriately verified, and that any verification and supporting evidence adequately substantiated their claims.