A website, www.thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk, seen in January 2021, featured a web page titled “OUR AWARD WINNING, BEST SELLING COURSE The Hypnobirthing Digital Pack” alongside the claim “THE WORLD’S MOST AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE HYPNOBIRTHING PROGRAM”. Further text included “The Positive Birth Company hypnobirthing program is designed to empower women, birthing people and their birth partners to create positive birth experiences, because birth matters and a positive birth experience offers lifelong benefits for all. The Hypnobirthing Digital Pack is The Positive Birth Company's online program and part of our mission to make hypnobirthing more accessible for all, because every woman and birthing person deserves the best birth possible.” followed by a link to “BUY NOW FOR £39”. A subheading underneath stated “WHAT'S COVERED?” and text beneath it included “The course is a fully comprehensive hypnobirthing antenatal course”.
The complainant, who understood that there were other online hypnobirthing courses for the same price or cheaper, challenged whether the claim “the world's most affordable … hypnobirthing program” was misleading and could be substantiated.
The Positive Birth Company Ltd said that they did not believe they had any direct or identifiable competitors, as they were the only company on the market that offered a range of online and in-person training courses covering how to conceive, pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period which were designed to be completed as part of a wider comprehensive online course. They said that this feature was not recognisable in other providers of antenatal or postnatal classes and they therefore did not believe that their claim was misleading. They said they were the leading provider of online hypnobirthing education and recommended by midwives and health care professionals around the world. Their courses were sold in over 140 different countries worldwide. They said they had also published a book which was an Amazon bestseller and had been translated and published internationally in many languages. They said they were also the creator of a virtual birth partner app which had been listed by the Apple App Store as one of the top apps of the year for the past two years running. They said that this range of linked products they additionally offered meant that their overall offering was unique compared to other hypnobirthing course providers. They said that although they did not believe that they had any competitors, they acknowledged that there were other individuals providing online hypnobirthing courses.
The Positive Birth Company said that their Digital Hypnobirthing Pack was priced at £39, accessible on all devices from anywhere in the world, inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, subtitled for accessibility to those who were hard of hearing, and comprised of more than six hours of video content. It also included an editable birth preferences template, downloadable MP3s, course notes booklet, infant feeding guide and access to a private community of over 35,000 expectant parents. They said that it was not possible to compare a ten-minute audio recording with their fully comprehensive on-demand course, consisting of over six hours of video content. It was the norm to pay on an hourly basis for coaching and their course was significantly cheaper and more affordable than all other providers on an hourly basis. They provided information about 11 companies offering online hypnobirthing courses, including their prices, the length of their courses and their costs.
The ASA understood that the claim “the world's most affordable … hypnobirthing program” was made in reference to The Positive Birth Company’s “Hypnobirthing Digital Pack” which was described as an online hypnobirthing course. We considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that compared with all other online hypnobirthing courses around the world, The Positive Birth Company’s online hypnobirthing course was the cheapest.
We acknowledged that in The Positive Birth Company’s view they did not have any competitors, because they believed their course was more comprehensive than other hypnobirthing courses on the market. However, it was reasonable to assume that consumers would be able to identify other companies that also offered hypnobirthing courses, regardless of what other differing characteristics they might have. We therefore considered that the ad made a comparison against identifiable competitors. The Positive Birth Company provided information that compared their online hypnobirthing course with 11 other online hypnobirthing course providers. While we noted that The Positive Birth Company’s hypnobirthing course was cheaper per hour compared to those courses, all 11 course providers were UK-based and so the evidence did not include global data in the way suggested by the claim. For those reasons, we concluded that the claim “the world's most affordable … hypnobirthing program” could not be substantiated and was therefore misleading.
On this point, the ad 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 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Positive Birth Company Ltd not to claim that they provided the world’s most affordable hypnobirthing programme without holding adequate comparative evidence to substantiate their claim.