TropiCleanse apparently “contains a blend of 100% natural ingredients that enable the body to flush out toxins, harmful parasites and impacted waste from the colon, leaving it cleansed and detoxified.” “Get your free sample now” said its website, but was it free? Heidi Bernard samples the ASA’s verdict.
Topic: Health & Beauty
Who: Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA"), TropiCleanse Ltd
When: 29 August 2012
Law stated as at: 5 September 2012
The ASA recently ruled on a complaint that a promotion by TropiCleanse, a company selling a 60 day "simple, all-natural way to purify your system of toxins and restore your internal health cycle" was misleading in content and breached third party IP rights.
The promotion in question was featured on the TropiCleanse website stating "Get Your Free Sample Now". The web page also showed the Royal Mail logo and the text "AS ADVERTISED ON [Channel] 4, The Guardian, USA Today and CNN".
A complainant challenged whether the promotion made it clear that consumers who requested a free sample would automatically be charged a monthly fee if they did not cancel.
The complainant also queried whether TropiCleanse had permission to use the logos and endorsements.
TropiCleanse said the word "free" and the logos would be removed. No comment was made on whether permission had been given to use the logos.
When informed of the complaint, TropiCleanse revised the web page by removing the word "free" and the logos. The web page then stated "TropiCleanse Sample…Subtotal £0.00". The ASA felt that this would be understood by viewers to be akin to a free trial.
At the bottom of the web page, small print was added which read: "By placing your order today, you'll be shipped a 2 week sample supply of TropiCleanse … If for any reason you feel TropiCleanse is not for you, simply cancel within 15 days … to decline enrolment in the auto-shipment programme, which conveniently sends you a full size supply every month … at the low price of 54.90 [sic] …".
The ASA told TropiCleanse that the revised promotion was still not clear enough as the reference to the sample was not followed immediately by text stating that additional charges would be incurred if the consumer did not cancel.
Therefore, the ASA held that the promotion was misleading and breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.17 (Prices), 3.23 (Free) and 8.17.1 (Significant conditions for promotions).
On the third party logos, TropiCleanse did not demonstrate that they had permission to use these. Therefore the promotion also breached the Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.50 (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ASA told TropiCleanse to ensure that significant financial commitments were clearly stated in their promotions, and to ensure that they had permission to use third-party logos.
Why this matters:
'Free trial' promotions are commonly used and play a part in the marketing of reputable companies such as Amazon for their Amazon Prime service. The ASA ruling in the case highlights that information that the consumer needs to make an informed decision about a product, such as the extent of the financial commitment the consumer must make, cannot be hidden in small print or be unclear.