Anti-alcohol campaigners have previously branded the Advertising Standards Agency “toothless” and accused it of failing to adequately punish advertisers breaching its code.
But a new “legal backdrop regime” will see it pass its findings on to the National Trading Standards Board, which will launch criminal prosecutions against advertisers.
The ASA announced today the first two firms to feel the wrath of the partnership: soft drinks supplier Fahrenheit 60 Ltd and health brand Electronic Healing.
Fahrenheit 60 Ltd was formally investigated by the ASA and found in breach of the rules for making misleading claims on its website about its soft drink, Aspire.
It claimed the drink could create a “thermogenic” reaction which could increase metabolism and burn up to 200 calories per can. It also claimed that ingredients in the drink would boost metabolism, suppress appetite, accelerate weight loss and oxidise fat.
Both advertisers failed to provide adequate evidence to support their claims and were placed on a list of non-compliant online advertisers on the ASA website. Despite this they continued to make the claims.
Trading Standards will now consider statutory action, including warnings and seeking criminal prosecutions or civil enforcement orders.
ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said: “Misleading advertising is unfair, but a misleading health claim can also be particularly harmful. Our referrals to Trading Standards are a clear warning to those who won’t stick to the rules that they face the prospect of legal sanctions. And these are just the first referrals: we’re preparing our cases against other advertisers who persist in making misleading claims.”
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the NTSB, added: “The self-regulation system operated by the ASA works very well but key to this is those few firms who won’t comply, knowing that they will face formal enforcement action if required.”