The eight page brochure insert in a national newspaper contained interviews, product information, claims in relation the product and information on how to order by post.
The front page referred to:
“INSTANT COMFORT & REFLEXOLOGY HEALING
Your feet can now heal your body...
Instant comfort & reflexology healing
NOW AVAILABLE IN IRELAND
Bio Reflex Insoles
no more chronic foot, muscle, and joint pain
helps with weight loss
improves your concentration
increase your energy level
reduce your blood pressure
strengthen the heart and immune system
The above text was accompanied by a man wearing a doctor’s coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. The text which accompanied the image read:
“Independently verified by qualified medical professionals
"Reflexology is fantastic for the liver and kidneys.
Order now - FREEPHONE 1800 … …”
One page referred to a variety of health issues under the heading “92% of patients were satisfied with the result. Each health issue had a before and after photograph. The issues referenced were
• Arthritis, Rheumatism, Pain
• Painful and Swollen Feet
• Sagging Skin and Wrinkles
• Back Problems
• Bloating and Weight Gain
• Varicose and Spider Veins.
Another page pictured an outline of the human body in colour coded zones with ten body areas listed:
7. Feet & legs
9. Skin, Hair and Eyes
10. Immune System
Each heading had text such as:
Improves circulation, particularly around the brain and head area – vital for preventing headaches, eye strain, migraine and memory loss due to ageing whilst promoting concentration and energy levels.
Relaxes the abdomen and promotes healthy digestion through the intestines. This will lead to an improved metabolism which is essential for overall health, reducing the risk of colon disease and helps you lose weight!
A page of fifteen testimonials, featured the name, age and location of the individual with a photograph of each person. The testimonial detailed the ailments which the individual had used the insoles for. These conditions included back pain, hypertension, stress and depression, heartburn, headaches and migraines and diabetes.
The complainant raised two concerns in relation to the advertisement.
The complainant referred to health benefits referenced in association with wearing
the insoles and queried whether such claims could be substantiated.
The complainant also raised concerns in relation to the validity of the testimonials and suggested that the testimonials were not from actual customers. He considered that some of the images which accompanied them had been taken from stock photographs which he said were available online. He forwarded a screen shot from another company’s website which featured a picture of two people both of whom featured in the advertisers’ brochure in association with testimonials from customers.
The advertisers said they had combined together the best of German footwear technology with the ancient healing art of reflexology to produce the Bio-Reflex Foot Insoles. They said these insoles not only provided instant soothing relief for feet and legs but also stimulated the reflexology points on the feet.
They said reflexology has been used for thousands of years and was based on the principle that meridians begin in the sole of the foot, run up through the body and into the brain. By applying pressure to the foot, reflexologists believe it can have beneficial effects on different parts of the body. They said the Bio-Reflex Insoles worked by using the wearer’s own body weight to massage and trigger acupressure points on the soles of their feet.
They said the Bio Reflex Insoles are different to other insoles as they feature 10 reflexology points across their surface. These 10 points have been strategically placed to stimulate specific areas on the soles of the feet which are thought to correspond to different parts of the body, helping to improve wellbeing. They believed this gentle reflexology treatment helps sooth tired aching feet and relax the body and mind, thus helping to sooth other parts of the body. They said the tests undertaken were collated from their customers’ feedback and the benefits which they had felt from wearing the insoles.
The advertisers said they do not discourage treatment for conditions for which medical supervision is needed. Going forward, however, they are prepared to add the following additional text to their advertising: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION – these insoles are not a substitute for prescribed medication. If you suffer with a serious health condition you should always consult your doctor before starting a new treatment”.
They advertisers said they regularly received positive feedback from their customers including those customers featured in the testimonials in their press insert. They said they appreciated that reflexology may not work for everyone and that is why they offer a 90-day money-back guarantee.
The complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that while explanations for how reflexology and the Bio-Reflex Soles worked had been provided, neither robust substantiation nor the results of practical trials on human subjects had been submitted in relation to the claims that wearing Bio Reflex Insole could prevent or alleviate the conditions referenced in the advertising.
The Committee also noted that a number of the conditions referenced in the advertising were serious medical conditions. They noted the Code requirement that advertising should not “offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of the suitably qualified health professional”. As the products were available by post, the Committee did not consider that there was evidence that users would be under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
The Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10 and 11.1 and 11.5 of the Code.
The Committee upheld the complaint.
The Committee noted that the complainant’s concerns, that the testimonials were not real because the photographs appeared to be stock photographs, had not been addressed. As evidence had not been received to demonstrate that the testimonials were real, the Committee concluded that the advertising had breached Section 4.15 of the Code.
The Committee upheld the complaint.
The advertising should not reappear in its current format again.