New Decisions: Socially Irresponsible Advocacy Ad, Misleading Website and More

The following decisions have been published:

Website Changed in Response to Complaint

The Optically New Zealand website had a tab called “Free and Easy Returns”.

The Complainant said the website advertising was misleading because they had to pay for the return postage of an item so they could be refunded.

The Chair acknowledged that after receiving the complaint the Advertiser made changes to the website, removing the reference to “free and easy returns”.

Given the Advertiser’s co-operative engagement with the process and the self-regulatory action taken in amending the advertisement, the Chair said that it would serve no further purpose to place the matter before the Complaints Board. The Chair ruled the complaint was Settled.

Advocacy Ad Socially Irresponsible

The newspaper advertisement for Fluoride Free New Zealand showed a photo of a child drinking a glass of water with the heading “Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that Reduces Children’s IQ”. Below this photo was the heading “International Experts share latest research linking fluoride to neurological damage and other harms.” Details about three speakers and the venue for the talk were included. The website and Facebook addresses of the advertiser were also included, along with the Fluoride Free New Zealand logo.

The ASA received seven complaints about the advertisement. The Complainants raised concerns the advertisement was misleading because it exaggerated the neurological effects of fluoride on children and used fear to spread a counter-scientific message that fluoride is dangerous to children.

The Advertiser said the purpose of the advertisement was to encourage people to attend a presentation on the toxicity of fluoride and they also felt a social responsibility to advise the general public about recent scientific research on fluoride. The Advertiser provided references to research to substantiate their claim.

The Complaints Board said the advocacy advertisement was not likely to mislead as the Advertiser did provide a level of substantiation for the claims made, and, in the context of an advocacy advertisement, this was deemed sufficient. However, the Complaints Board said the advertisement unjustifiably played on fear and was therefore socially irresponsible. Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled the complaint was Upheld, in part.