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Drinkable Sunscreen Hard to Swallow

Drinkable Sunscreen Hard to Swallow


A complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority against Osmosis Skincare has been upheld, regarding advertisements on their website for their "UV Protection" product, made of "Harmonized Water".

Two versions of these products were advertised, a "Tan" version and a "No Tan" version. Osmosis Skincare claimed that consuming the products would let you "Achieve UV 30 protection before the sun even hits you with our innovative new technology that isolates the precise frequencies needed to neutralize UVA and UVB". They also claimed the each product "Neutralizes UV radiation" and "Allows for increased sun exposure (30x more than normal)".

These products generated international media attention in May 2014, with stories published by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. The story was also picked up by New Zealand's own One News. This attention also prompted several rebuttals, including one from the British Association of Dermatologists, who contacted Osmosis Skincare regarding their claims and was told that the product is 100% water and not given any evidence to support their claims. The rebuttal stated:

We want to make it immediately clear at this stage, the formulation is 100% water and, as far as our experts are concerned, it is complete nonsense to suggest that drinking water will give you a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30.

The complaint, lodged by a member of the Society for Science Based Healthcare on the 21st of May, said that the claims made about the product did not seem to be supported by evidence, and that the advertisements "abuse scientific terminology in a way that seems intended to exploit consumers' lack of knowledge". It also said that, particularly due to the high rate of melanoma caused by excess Sun exposure in New Zealand, the advertisement is "highly irresponsible".

The Advertising Standards Complaints Board ruled that the advertisements were misleading, as the claims made about them were not supported by evidence. The board also said that Osmosis Skincare abused the trust and exploited the knowledge of consumers, and did not observe the high standard of social responsibility required of them as a therapeutic advertiser.

In their decision, the Advertising Standards Complaints board said:

Turning to consider the claims made in the advertisement, and the lack of substantiation from the Advertiser, the Complaints Board said in a New Zealand context, the amendments were not significant enough. It said it was the responsibility of the Advertiser to substantiate the claims made and confirmed the claim "achieve UV 30 protection before the sun even hits you with our innovative new technology that isolates the precise frequencies needed to neutralize UVA and UVB" was likely to mislead consumers as there was no substantiation or evidence to support it.

It said the advertisement was likely to abuse the trust and exploit the knowledge of the consumer by stating the product offered sun protection "30 x more than normal" and used scientific terminology like "isolates the precise frequencies" without adequate substantiation. It said this was exacerbated when considered within a New Zealand context as sun exposure can have significant negative effects here in comparison with other countries and could have serious consequences for consumer's [sic] safety.

In response to the complaint being upheld, the advertisements for these products have been removed from Osmosis Skincare's website. However, the business still advertises other "Harmonized Water" products with various therapeutic claims. The Society for Science Based Healthcare suspects that the claims made about these products are likely similarly unsupported by scientific evidence, and if this is the case Osmosis Skincare may still be misleading consumers about some of their products.

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An appeal from the Society for Science Based Healthcare regarding a complaint of theirs that was previously settled against Magne-Sleep has been successful. The initial complaint was settled when Magne-Sleep voluntarily withdrew the claim that their magnetic mattress underlay could provide "More Sleep, Less Pain!", but as a result of the appeal this complaint has now been upheld.

An appeal was submitted against this decision because the advertisement also contained the URL "www.painfreeday.co.nz", which the Society for Science Based Healthcare argued "creates an expectation that the products available from that website will be able to offer effective pain relief, perhaps even strong enough pain relief to leave a consumer free of pain during the day", yet the advertiser's response did not mention their use of this URL. The same website is also available via the URL www.bodymagnetix.co.nz.

In their response to the appeal, the Advertising Standards Complaints Board said that:

the domain name itself fell outside of its jurisdiction, and it did not have authority [to] request the Advertiser de-register the URL www.painfreeday.co.nz. However, it confirmed the appearance of a URL in an advertisement did fall within its jurisdiction, as it clearly formed part of, and added context to, the advertisement.

The board also said that:

the likely consumer take out of the URL www.painfreeday.co.nz, when taken in the context of the advertisement, was that consumers could expect a product or service which offered a "pain free day" on visiting the URL.

Because the advertiser did not supply evidence to support this claim, the complaints board ruled that:

the advertisement was therefore likely to mislead consumers and as such was in breach of Principle 2 [of] the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code. It said the advertisement has not observed a high standard of social responsibility to consumers and society require [sic] by advertisements making therapeutic claims and was in breach of Principle 3 of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code.

Another complaint from the Society for Science Based Healthcare regarding the website of Magne-Sleep's competitor, Woolrest Biomag, has also been lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority. Although this complaint has not been heard by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, the claim "Drug Free Pain Relief" has been removed from the website's header since the complaint was laid.

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Another complaint from the Society for Science Based Healthcare, regarding the website of “Centre of Balance”, a Hamilton-based Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practice, has been settled. The complaint regarded a long list of diseases that the business could “treat” with acupuncture. Instead of providing evidence to substantiate its claims, Centre of Balance opted to change the wording of their website so it wouldn’t explicitly claim these diseases could be effectively treated by them. The list includes serious diseases such as coronary heart disease and various types of cancer. Although the decision was a positive step, the Society doesn't consider the changes made to be sufficient and will be following up on this case.

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The Society for Science Based Healthcare is mostly happy with these decisions, and hopes that the advertisers will abide by them and not mislead consumers by making these claims in advertising in the future. Consumers need to be aware that claims such as these may not be supported by evidence, so that they can avoid purchasing a product because they have been misled about its effects.

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