Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Some tools and strategies I use for making complaints to ASA, TS etc

The shortened link for this post is

I think everyone has slightly different ways of approaching this but here are some things I do - not necessarily as coherently as I've put them here ;)

Almost every time I discuss a 'case' with fellow skeptics I seem to come away with a new tool or bit of useful information. Quite often I add them to the relevant section of the 'Skepticmedia' page I update sporadically.

I like writing lists - the following are not really in any particular order. Really we could have gone with bullet points :)

1. Find a website, or leaflet, which makes misleading claims.
If you like, you can search the Advertising Standards Authority's section of its website on adjudications (you can't search these from the main website though) (scroll down to 'Search adjudications')

2. If a website, see if you can find out who's registered it.
There's no guarantee that you'll get very far with this as sometimes people use third party agencies to do this for them, but always worth a shot. You can do a search for the domain name registration using one of the free DNS WHOIS lookup services, such as

3. If you find a registration name, "trading as" name or company address have a bit of a Google - you might find that they own another site. Similarly if the website has a phone number (for people to order the product) searching for that number can bring up other sites too.

4. Have a look on companies house
A company I recently reported for making misleading claims seems to have been additionally trading illegally as their company dissolved a year or so ago. You can search for companies using the free Web Check site

5. Have a look at the Medicines (Advertising) Regulation of 1994 (via @landtimforgot)
If the leaflet or website is offering a medicinal product (or service?? Does anyone know? ie does this only concern itself with things which are generally marketed as 'medicines'?) to treat any of the conditions listed there then they may be acting illegally.

Acting illegally rather trounces the making of unsubstantiated claims, but I'd always persist with making a claim for the simple reason that, if you blog about it later (if an adjudication etc has been made) then you're slightly increasing the amount of good information on the internet / raising awareness of scams etc.

6. Complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) or Trading Standards (TS)
6a. Get Fishbarrel to automate complaints (created by @Simon_Perry)
This is a free app for anyone using the Google Chrome browser. It does two things - makes it MUCH easier to fill in the complaint forms and it keeps a record of complaints made about a site. This means you can use it to see if someone's already complained previously (this doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't add another complaint of your own of course). I've previously written about this fab tool here

For your own records you might want to copy and paste the text of the complaint before sending it off. Fishbarrel records the words on a website, but not any comments you add.

6b. Manually make complaints
Trading Standards - use Consumer Direct's online form

7. Blog about results, if you want to
An ASA adjudication is available on a database within their website but doesn't appear to be that searchable via Google. To make it more indexable it's helpful to blog about it.

Because there's an unlimited number of people flogging nonsense and misadvertising it I doubt we'll ever stop each individual instance, far better to raise awareness and promote good information. Along with saving people money and signposting people to how they can complain about stuff I suppose my order of importance for doing this is as follows:

a/b) Raise awareness of scam sites
b/a) Slightly increase the amount of good quality information on the web
c) Get misleading claims removed

1 comment:

  1. Incidentally, I've noticed that some of my Flickr photographs which mention a product are used in those fake review sites, often with the photo comments attached. Most of my photos are Creative Commons Attribution, which means they can be used commerically. I'm tempted to take a few more photos of questionable products, tag them critically and release them into the wild ;)

    Example - note the line below the phrase "Image by Jodiepedia" which is what I wrote on the original


Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).