ASA initiates sanctions against H&B over ‘weight loss’ ruling


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it has initiated sanctions against Holland & Barrett (H&B).

The move follows a ruling in early December by the ASA that H&B breached the UK advertising code by using the term ‘weight management’ as a generic category heading on its website.

The ASA investigated the case after two complainants challenged whether H&B’s use of the term was in compliance with EU regulations on heath and nutrition claims.

In a submission of evidence H&B argued that all the products within the weight management category on its website could support claims that were either authorized on the EU Register as weight management/weight control claims, or were listed as ‘on hold’ botanicals claims awaiting authorization.

The company also bluntly rejected the ASA’s jurisdiction in this area, saying that the watchdog ‘had no remit to rule on food claims in advertising’ and was ‘not a control body’ in the area of EU food law.

The ASA says that despite requests from its compliance team to H&B to amend its website in line with the ruling, the company has to date declined to take any action. The watchdog says that, consequently, it has ‘undertaken initial sanctions’ against the company and added its name to its list of non-compliant online advertisers.

The ASA’s media and public affairs manager told NPG: “Compliance will monitor this situation and look to work to bring H&B into line. If they are unwilling or unable to cooperate then Compliance can and will consider further sanctions.”

Online sanctions can include removal of a marketer’s paid-for search advertisements when those advertisements link to a webpage that contains material which breaks advertising rules. Additionally, ASA notices highlighting an advertiser’s breach of the advertising code may also appear in search engine results for a company’s website.