A week ago I published my write-up of a complaint I made to the Advertising Standards Authority about an advertisement for amber teething necklaces on the U-GO website.
In my write-up, I explained how I had appealed the ASA’s decision to settle the complaint without the advertisement being removed or changed, and that my appeal had been declined but I was not sure why. As it turned out, I received the details as to why my appeal had been declined in the mail on the same day as I published my write-up. I edited my previous post to explain this, but the vast majority of people who have read it did so before I made that edit.
Usually I receive correspondence from the ASA regarding my complaints both via email and on paper, but for some reason this was only sent to me via the post. Whenever they send out details of their decisions, they ask that they not be made public until the ASA has released them to the media, which is why I’ve waited until now to publish this write-up.
It turns out that my victory was bigger than I’d realised. When U-GO removed their advertisement on the 19th of February (the date my appeal was declined), I thought that it was still going to be later republished after they had attained the approval of TAPS, the Association of New Zealand Advertisers’ Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting System, as this had been implied in their original response to my complaint:
Also, because our business has taken us in to other areas of advertising we have employed the services of TAPS adjudicators and understand more the seriousness of making therapeutic claims in our advertising.
When we make these necklaces available again we will ensure the standards are met.
However, the response to my appeal revealed that U-GO has decided to stop selling these necklaces. Here is the entirety of the correspondance from U-GO that the ASA forwarded to me in relation to my appeal:
… [T]he Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces have been withdrawn from sale. We will not be offering these for sale again.
Because these necklaces were a very minor part of U-GO’s business, they were easily able to withdraw them from sale in response to the complaint. While I am very happy with this result, the fact that they were willing to informally resolve the complaint instead of requiring the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (ASCB) to make an adjudication and choose whether or not to uphold the complaint means that no useful precedent has been set.
Since receiving this news, I have made 2 more complaints about advertisements for practically identical products. One of these advertisers’ businesses relies entirely on the sale of amber necklaces for therapeutic purposes, so I anticipate that the ASCB will have to uphold that particular complaint instead of it being informally settled. Once a precedent has been set, it should make it much easier and quicker to have future complaints about advertisements of these products upheld.
The advertisements that I have complained about are on the Belly Beyond website and the Baby Amber Teething New Zealand website. You can expect to see write-ups for each of these complaints here eventually.
I feel as though I should acknowledge that it’s possible that U-GO only didn’t remove the advertisement immediately because they thought it should be left in place for the duration of my ASA complaint in order to help the ASA’s process. I can’t say for sure, but this seems implied by a couple of things they said in their original response to my complaint:
I would like to say that had I seen this advertisement on our website I would have changed it immediately.
We have left the advertisement as it is on the website for the duration of this complaint but have made it unavailable for sale.
If they had no problem with removing the advertisement then they should have removed it as soon as they received the complaint, but I can believe that they may have misunderstood this.
The full details of my appeal and the decision to have it declined are available on the ASA’s website and on Honest Universe.
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