Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Chala’s Beauty Box, Venus Beauty & Aesthetics, Victoria Anne Beauty and The Secret Diamond Academy
Where: United Kingdom
When: 26 April 2023
Law stated as at: 9 May 2023
The ASA has challenged three ads for sclerotherapy treatments on whether they breached the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) because they promoted a prescription-only medicine (POM) to the public.
The CAP Code states that POMs or prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public. Sclerotherapy, which is a treatment for varicose veins, requires the use of a POM. The ASA concluded that since the ads promoted sclerotherapy treatments, therefore – POMs, to the general public, they have breached the Code.
One of the rulings concerned an ad for Venus Beauty & Aesthetics promoting sclerotherapy. The company in its response admitted its knowledge of the relevant rules. However, it had mistakenly assumed that advertising a procedure, rather than the actual POM, would be within the rules. The ASA, however, still considered that the ad promoted a POM to the general public, since it advertised sclerotherapy as “the most common treatment for improving the appearance of varicose and spider veins on the legs“.
Another ruling looked into an ad for sclerotherapy posted on a social media page for the beauty salon Victoria Anne Beauty. The company claimed that the ad had been posted by an independent practitioner of sclerotherapy, who was not the salon’s employee, but just used their space for his sessions. The company itself had no profit from this. However, the ASA highlighted that the ad had been posted by the company’s account, which made it responsible for the respective content.
A related ruling focused on the ads for the Secret Diamond Academy’s training courses for sclerotherapy. The ASA’s concern was that the ads were misleading since they offered training courses without making clear the nature, requirements, qualifications and possible professional registration details of the course. The company said that consumers could learn more about the courses, if they enquired such information.
The ASA considered that prospective students of the company’s training courses should have obtained more information from the ad itself to make an informed decision as to whether or not to enquire for more details.
Further, an NHS webpage advised patients to check whether professionals offering cosmetic procedures were listed on a voluntary register accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. This page also advised making sure that a person giving the injections as part of a cosmetic treatment which requires a prescription, was appropriately trained, and avoiding practitioners who had only completed a short training course.
In this light, the ASA considered that ads for such training courses should have provided potential students with the information on:
- the minimum requirements for acceptance onto the course,
- the qualification that would be attained,
- the nature and duration of the training, and
- whether the qualification met the standards necessary for admittance onto a relevant professional register.
The ASA considered that the ads were likely to mislead consumers, since they omitted such material information.
Why this matters:
These rulings serve as an important reminder of the CAP Code’s rules on POMs or prescription-only medical treatments – namely, that they may not be advertised to the public. Additionally, the ASA provides helpful guidance on what information is considered material and should be provided to consumers, if a business promotes training courses for sclerotherapy.