In February 2003, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints by Ecos Paints of Cumbria against no less than five companies making “natural” claims for their products.
Who: Ecos Paints and Green Building Store/Erinvale Natural Skincare/Good Earth Catalogue Company/The Green People Company/Logona Cosmetics
When: February 2003
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority
The Advertising Standards Authority reached a "complaint upheld" finding in respect of no less than 5 complaints lodged with the ASA by just one company based in Cumbria. The company was Ecos Paints and all of the complaints were in respect of "natural"/"organic" claims made in respect of certain products.
The Green Building Store advertised "the natural paint collection", Erinvale headlined its advertisements "Erinvale Natural Skincare "and went on to promote" a full range of products using 100% natural ingredients", the Good Earth Catalogue Company advertised its "Natural Hair and Skincare" products "without the use of artificial fertilisers, chemicals and pesticides," The Green People Company promoted its "Organicbabies" baby bodycare products using the phrase "free your children from synthetic chemicals," and Logona Cosmetics advertised its body care products with the words "Natural organic affordable body care for all the family," and "Say no to synthetics."
Ecos Paints complained that all five ads were misleading in that synthetic ingredients were in fact used in the manufacture of some products in all five ranges advertised.
In many cases the advertisers defended on the basis that consumers must be aware that in the case of products like paints and soaps, there would inevitably have to be some synthetic ingredients in the manufacturing process. The ASA's response to this each time was that although consumers might be aware of these matters, the fact was that a claim to be a "natural" product should only be made in respect of something that was made without the use of any synthetic ingredients whatsoever.
Why this matters:
In some of these cases, the non-natural ingredients were tiny in comparison with the remaining naturally occurring constituents and only cropped up in one or two of a wide product range. Nevertheless these decisions make it clear that the ASA will continue to take a very tough line on claims of this kind. Accordingly advertisers contemplating making claims in this category should only do so after first of all conducting a rigorous examination of the manufacturing process and the ingredients used in it.