ASA ruling highlights need for salons to be careful with online claims

An alternative remedies clinic group has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) for making misleading claims on its website, giving a stark warning to other clinics and salons to be cautious about any claims made on websites, as well as in adverts.

The watchdog’s digital remit was extended in 2011 to include companies’ own marketing communications on their websites and marketing communication in non-paid spaces such as Facebook and Twitter.

The website for The Natural Health Clinic, www.drstephenferguson.com, claimed that one of its products “builds the immune system up stronger than anything else on the market ...".

Claims for another product "Dr Ferguson's Tropical Fruit non dairy whey protein" stated that it may “help to protect the body from diabetes; multiple sclerosis; motor neuron disease; obesity and alzheimer's [sic] disease".

A complainant challenged whether Dr Ferguson was suitably qualified to offer advice, diagnosis and treatment for the conditions featured and if the website was misleading as it implied the listed illnesses could be treated or cured by the advertiser.

The ASA said it was concerned by the lack of a substantive response from The Natural Health Clinic, which offered a link to a disclaimer.

The ASA said: “We noted the full disclaimer was not on their home page, but was accessed via a link. Furthermore, the link was not prominent and was crowded out by additional text, visuals and videos…Because The Natural Health Clinic did not provide evidence to support the claims made, we concluded the ad was misleading and could discourage individuals from seeking essential medical advice.”

The authority ruled that the claims must be removed from the website.