Dealing with complaints about homeopathy websites

Dealing with complaints about homeopathy websites

Alternative medicineSince 1 March we’ve received a large number of complaints about claims on homeopathy websites, mostly about claims for the efficacy of homeopathy in diagnosing, treating or helping certain health or medical conditions (e.g. arthritis).

The high volume of complaints and the number of marketers we need to work with means we’ve taken a different approach to our normal investigation process. We’re now dealing with the complaints as part of a wider investigation project.

We don’t play a numbers game – we can act on just one complaint. So we don’t need to receive further complaints about homeopathy websites in order to act.

What’s happening now?

We’ve told marketers of homeopathic treatments and services about whom we’ve received a complaint to remove marketing claims that refer to, or imply, the efficacy of homeopathy for treating or helping specific health conditions. This is because the ASA considers there is insufficient robust scientific evidence to support these claims.

Here are the letters that we sent to owners of homeopathy websites. The first letter is a general introductory letter that explains who we are, why we have contacted them and what they need to do next. The second letter was sent for further clarification following questions that were raised by homeopaths and the third letter seeks assurances from the advertiser that they will remove problem claims from their website.

We are now monitoring these websites to see whether the necessary changes have been made. This will help to inform the nature and scope of any future action we may take. In the meantime, we won’t be contacting the owners of any other websites that are brought to our attention. But we will retain their website details for future compliance initiatives, if we consider such action to be necessary. More information about our compliance work can be found on our website and the CAP website.

We’re taking the complaints we’ve received seriously and we’re pleased that we’re already seeing evidence of website owners amending claims and contacting us for advice. This is encouraging and represents good progress.

We will also produce some guidance for website owners, which we will publicise shortly, to help them to comply with the rules. If you are a marketer of homeopathy products or services and want to receive notification of this advice please sign up for the Insight newsletter.

Finally, please note that this entire process is likely to take some time, especially given the number of businesses involved in the sector.

Already made a complaint?

Because of the different approach we’re taking on this occasion, you won’t hear from us again. But please be assured that we’re acting on your concerns. If our July monitoring exercise indicates a continuing problem, we may take further action at a later date. You don’t need to contact us again for this to happen.

Seen a problem? What should you do?

We don’t need further complaints to complete this process. We’re already working hard to address the issues raised by complainants. It’s important to note that sending us additional complaints on the same topic is most unlikely to alert us to new issues and it can have the unintended consequence of slowing down our work.

Any complaints we do receive may not be responded to directly, but may instead be referred to our compliance team in the event that wider compliance initiatives in this sector are considered necessary.

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