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 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Misleading health claims around the world - going global

A few years ago I learned, by accident, that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) would handle complaints made about organisations based outside the UK. My complaint was against an organisation claiming it could reverse Type 2 diabetes - their ad had appeared on my Facebook page (I was working at Diabetes UK at the time so the algorithms probably brought up a lot more diabetes stuff than they do now), so I took a screenshot and reported it.

The organisation turned out to be based in Spain but through the ASA's cross-border agreement it was passed to the Spanish ASA equivalent to handle the complaint, who investigated, and an adjudication was upheld against the organisation.

Given that UK people will see adverts from all over the world it makes sense that we can report them to the relevant authorities if they're misleading. More recently I've been looking into the list of countries that the ASA will liaise with, both European (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey) and non European (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, New Zealand and South Africa) and began to wonder what can be done about misleading claims from the US.

Yesterday I found out that the US' Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will apparently take complaints about US adverts from UK citizens, though I've not yet tested it, so we'll see.

The FTC has recently taken some quite firm action on people making misleading claims about diabetes, which is great to see - FTC Obtains $2.2 Million Judgment against Supplement Marketer that Made Phony Claims for Treating and Preventing Diabetes (7 March 2014) - FTC's press release.

There's no guarantee though that they'll process a complaint in the way that the ASA does (the ASA publishes an adjudication on its website) particularly as they let complainants know that:

"Your complaint may help us and our law enforcement partners detect patterns of fraud and abuse, which may lead to investigations and eliminate unfair business practices. Complaints are entered in our secure online database, which is used by many local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. The FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but we can provide information about what next steps to take."

So I'll put a complaint in to the FTC, though I may well never hear of it again :)

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