Karin Mont from ARH has kindly allowed me to reproduce her article on the ASA and how it has affected Homoeopathic medicine. The article is quite long, so I have published a preview & the full article can be downloaded via the link at the bottom of the post.
Karin and the ARH were exhibiting at the Holistic Health Show at the NEC in May 2012.
You can find more about the ARH and their good work by visiting http://a-r-h.org/
Judge, jury and executioner!
Since March 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been in contact with numerous CAM practitioners to inform them that their websites do not comply with the advertising code.
This code, which is basically a set of rules about marketing communications, has been compiled by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), who work closely with the ASA. The section of the CAP Code which relates directly to CAM therapies (12.1 and 12.2), was introduced without prior consultation with the CAM sector. Basically, an unelected and unrepresentative group of individuals, with no knowledge or expertise in CAM therapies, has made up a set of rules relating to the treatment of medical conditions.
The ASA’s role is to enforce the CAP Code, and our experience to date suggests that, in relation to CAM therapies, the ASA chooses to interpret the Code in a highly selective manner. Many individuals who have been contacted by the ASA, have found the experience intimidating. The preamble on one of the ASA’s standard letters states: ‘Our authority is recognised by Government, the courts, other regulators such as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)…, as the established means of consumer protection from misleading advertising.’ Most of us would agree that advertising should be subject to some control, and that advertising claims should not be deliberately misleading. However, the ASA appears to have chosen to define any reference which claims, either directly or indirectly, that a CAM therapy can diagnose / treat / help a named health condition, as ‘marketing’. Therefore, the merest mention of the potential efficacy of a CAM therapy is disallowed, according to the ASA’s terms of enforcement.
We know that the antihomeopathy campaigners have used the ASA to specifically target the websites of practising homeopaths. Understandably, many individuals contacted by the ASA simply complied without a struggle, and made the requested changes to their websites. For others, the matter is ongoing, and given the time, energy and confidence required to make a stand against such apparent injustice, is not an undertaking for the faint hearted! The following is an attempt to place the ASA into perspective and identify some of its fundamental flaws. We can only begin to address some of the issues created by the ASA’s actions if we understand who they are and how they operate.
The ASA is a self-appointed regulator of the advertising industry, from which it receives anonymous funding to support its operations. The public has a right to expect every regulator to adhere to basic criteria which must:
• protect the public interest
• ensure independence and impartiality
• provide appropriate checks and balances to prevent the regulator abusing their powers
• ensure the regulator is accountable for its actions.
As a self-appointed body, purportedly established to protect the public interest, the ASA has a duty of care to ensure that its processes adequately reflect the needs of all parties represented by the public sector. This includes the consumer, the advertiser, the information provider (which is the role most of us fulfil when we establish a website).
The ASA’s basic processes In my experience, there are concerns about the manner in which the ASA manages its self-appointed regulatory role. The ASA’s basic processes could be considered fundamentally flawed because
• the ASA determines its own rules and regulations, without accountability to any other authority
• the ASA appoints its own Council to adjudicate on alleged breaches of the CAP Code
• the ASA Council adjudicates ‘in camera’, in direct contravention of the principles of openness and transparency
• the ASA, together with the CAP Compliance team, determine what sanctions should be applied to a non-compliant individual
• the ASA usually conceals the identity of a complainant, so assumes sole responsibility for determining if the complainant is a genuinely concerned member of the public, or a lobbying group with a specific agenda (such as SAS or the Nightingale Collaboration).
To summarise, the ASA acts as a self-appointed lawmaker, judge, jury and executioner, with judgements being made behind closed doors.
For the whole article please click here: ASA Homeopathy Therapist Article K Mont