Making False Health Claims. Part 2

Part 1 explained why people must not make health claims for products that have not been licenced, tested or shown to work. It looked at the law, agencies involved and showed examples of bad practice.

How do you know if a product has the correct licence to be sold as a health product or medicine (enabling you to make health claims)?

To sell or supply a medicine in the UK a company must hold a wholesale dealer’s licence (WDA) from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  Click here  for the register of licenced wholesale distribution companies.

JuicePlus, Forever Living, Ariix and ItWorks do not appear on this list. I have contacted the MHRA to ask if they hold any licence enabling them to make health claims on their products. They do not.

 

Herbal remedy?

If you find yourself selling a product that you believe to have a positive health benefit and you have discovered it does not have the correct licencing to be considered a medicine, maybe it could be classed as a herbal remedy? Luckily for the consumer, this area is heavily regulated too. Since May 2014 it has been the law that herbal remedies have to be licenced by the MHRA as a Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR).  Such products will have this symbol on them-

200x200_new_herbal_remedies_registration
This means that the product has been tested for-

  • Quality
  • Contamination
  • Contents of product
  • Information provided on side effects
  • Information on contra-indications with other drugs
  • Information for pregnant women
  • Information for people with certain medical conditions

This mark does not show that the herbal remedy works, just that it is what it says it is and it has been traditionally used as a herbal remedy for certain conditions for more than 30 years. More information can be found at WebMD.

You can look on the packaging for the THR mark. If you want to order a product and don’t have the packaging to hand, you can search the database here on the MHRA’s website for the company and product. This list shows the name of the product, which herbal ingredients it contains and what these ingredients have traditionally been used for. I have asked Forever Living if any of their products have the THR mark. They said that they do not.

 

If you are selling products within an MLM company in the health and wellness sector, you may now be concerned about how you can sell these products.

You will probably have been told in trainings that your products are fantastic at curing all sorts of things.  You have probably heard testimonials about how the products have helped people that you know, or heard of them at group meetings. This is an extract taken from a training manual from Forever Living in November 2013, encouraging their distributors to make health claims when prospecting for customers-

photo 2

You can access the whole manual here. I believe there is a more upto date manual but this has to be paid for and as a non-member of FLP, I am not going to buy one.

BUT

You have already found out the product does not have the correct legal approval. You are not allowed to

  • say your product cures anything
  • show any evidence from studies/books showing it is effective if you are also selling the product
  • give any first or second hand testimonials
  • verbally recommend a product for a specific condition
  • say the product enhances natural performance e.g metabolism, energy levels.

Here is a Forever Living manual that sets how not to make health claims. The last two pages set out the law and what is and isn’t allowed and would be useful to anyone selling ‘wellness’ products in an MLM.
How can you sell products without breaking the rules?

You have to resist the urge to make any health claims or imply them.  You don’t want to break the law or get in trouble with the ASA, MHRA or your MLM.

You would have to just concentrate on other qualities of the product, such as how great it tastes or what a lovely colour it is. Try selling the product on how lovely the packaging is and what it could be used for when it is empty. A nice rocket or a vase maybe? I am obviously joking here because it is clear that the products are meant to be sold as health products and encouragement will be given for you to sell it as such.

One woman in an MLM noticed the contradictions between what she was being told to do in official trainings and what she was allowed to do. She became concerned that there was no legal way to sell the products. She complained to the company. They said there was no problem. She complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and the Direct Selling Association (DSA) who found in her favour. She details the complaints she made and the outcomes very clearly in this damning complaint. She was fired.

What can consumers or concerned people do if they discover blatant examples of health claims being made for a product that is not correctly licenced?

I would not bother with a complaint to the MLM itself.  My personal experience is that they acknowledge it is non-compliant but nothing is done.

  • You could complain to the ASA for a breach of advertising rules.  They cover online promoting, not just printed and televised adverts. You can make an online complaint on their website.
  • You could complain to the MHRA. They say “Our experts in the Inspection, Enforcement and Standards division can help assist investigating claims being made on the products and you are welcome to provide this information and the websites of the distributors to the following email address below and our experts who action as necessary.

    Email: borderline_medicine@mhra.gsi.gov.uk”

  • You could contact the offender and tell them they are breaking the rules and they could get into trouble. Give them the link to this blog or cut and paste this warning-

You have been making health claims for a product that does not have the correct legal paperwork. By making these claims you are breaking the law and the policies of your company.  You could get yourself into serious trouble with the authorities if reported.  Or worse, someone could be harmed if they follow your advice.  Please amend the wording or delete this claim.

  • You could give the person a link to the following sites for them to research for themselves the dangers of MLMs and some shocking stories from people who used to be involved in MLMs. A lot of the areas covered involve false advertising. Hopefully they might think twice about what they are doing.

facebook.com/timelessvie – a parody of a made up MLM to highlight the practices used by real MLMs.

facebook.com/liestopper – the Bot Watch Facebook page which contains useful facts for MLM people on how not to break rules. Also Bot Watch warns people about their false claims and seeks to have them removed.

timelessvie.wordpress.com – a blog linked to the Timeless Vie Facebook page.  Interesting articles from ex MLM people and insightful posts on how MLMs operate.

@Timeless Vie – the Twitter account for Timeless Vie.

The Mumsnet Discussion on MLMs- http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/legal_money_matters/2578946-Cant-Stop-Wont-Stop-MLM-Botwatch-10-Now-Featuring-MLMers-who-dont-answer-questions-jokes-posts-by-eyes-questions-about-Forever-Living-Ariix-Younique-Jamberry-etc-as-scambralamas?pg=21

blogwatchblog.blogspot.com – this blog

 

Good luck.

Making False Health Claims. Part 2

Making False Health Claims. Part 1

 

If you are in a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) company in the ‘health and wellness sector’ you may be promoting and selling products that you believe can help people with their health problems or that promote wellness.

YOU MUST BE VERY VERY CAREFUL WHEN DOING THIS!!!

Some typical social media material promoting these products have made some pretty bold claims…

healthclaim

 natasha

 

health2

 photo 4

stupid

 stupid2

These products have been made to sound wonderful and can cure nearly anything! The thing is though, in Britain, you can only make a health claim about a product if it has actually been shown to help with a condition.  And if you are advertising anything, the adverts have to be truthful.  These rules are serious and are designed to protect the public from quacks selling snake oil and taking advantage of people. People who are often vulnerable or desperate, or both.

 

Reasons why you cannot make false health claims-

  1. You need to know a few things when taking a medicine. You need to know it will do what it says it will, what the side effects are, and that the benefits will outweigh the possible risks. This information can only be gained through proper clinical trials conducted by professionals and the product monitored by official channels. If a product has not been through the proper testing methods, you do not know that it will help any condition. You will be lying if you say it can help when you don’t know that.
  2. The Advertising Standards Authority take a dim view of false advertising. They do not just cover TV and print adverts, but also cover promoting online. This includes claims made on Facebook. If a health claim is investigated by them and it is found to be non-compliant, they will ask for it to be removed. If it is not removed, it can be referred to trading standards.
  3. It is illegal to make health claims without the right licence. This is overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
  4. It is illegal to make claims that an unregulated and unlicenced product can cure cancer or assist in the treatment of it. The Cancer Act 1939 makes this an offence, punishable by a fine or imprisonment for upto three months.
  5. Your MLM will probably state in their policies that you are not allowed to make these claims and they will not back you up if you break their rules.

Here is Forever Living’s policy on it

fl policy

6. If you lied about a product being helpful to someone and they took it, believing it would help, and it didn’t, that is very very wrong.  You would be giving false hope and could be causing serious damage. You may think you are not harming people and you really believe in the product but even benign sounding products can cause real harm-

In 1995 The Independent published a story about how bee products had seriously hurt some people and killed an 11 year old. This was due to allergies.

     “The most serious case was that reported in Australia of an 11-year-old girl who died of what       was diagnosed as an asthma attack. When she took a double dose of royal jelly she developed a wheeze and severe diarrhoea, started having bronchial spasms, and was taken to hospital.

She failed to respond to treatment “The death of the 11-year-old urgently re-emphasises the fact that royal jelly constitutes a major and life-threatening risk to patients with a known history of asthma or related allergies,” said Alain Rohan, a drug reaction specialist, in a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia. “Natural substances such as royal jelly, in which the protein content is very high, appear to pose the greatest antigenic threat of all such compounds.”

People with asthma and hay fever will often have allergies to pollen and bee products. But some companies are saying bee products can help with these conditions!

 

Part 2 coming soon, to include-

How do you know if your products have the correct licence to make health claims?

How can you sell products without breaking rules?

What to do if you see someone flouting these rules and you are concerned.

 

Making False Health Claims. Part 1

Are you or someone you know in an MLM? Having doubts?

dreams-reality

 

Is your business not going as well as you hoped it would? It is ok to wonder why this might be. It is ok to assess what you are doing and what is best for you. It is not ‘negative thinking’ to evaluate what is happening and move forward.

Successful people like Alan Sugar, Richard Branson etc do not just go with one idea and persevere. They have advisors and seek others’ opinions and adapt their strategies according to the evidence around them. Here are some things for you to think about, and links for further information, should you wish to find out more.

1. You may have been told that you can work your business around your family, using spare time or just working a few hours a week to earn great money. Pretty quickly you will find out that to get anywhere, you need to spend a vast amount of time tending to the business. It is not part time at all.

Here is a short video highlighting the differences between what you are promised and reality- 

2. Even if you are spending a lot of time and effort on the business, you will still not be making money. This is for two reasons,

a)the odds are against you and the maths really doesn’t stack up at all. Statistically, MLMs never make the sellers any money. The maths is explained here.

 

b) Your expenses will be very high. Do you have to pay for samples, website, postage and packaging, event equipment (tablecloth, leaflets, posters), answering services, training days, mileage, babysitters, hotel costs, training manuals, stickers, bags, books etc etc? Have you been factoring in these costs when working out your earnings? Other industries would provide these sorts of things as expenses and you would certainly not pay for them yourself. You even have to pay for your own coffee at training events.

3. What’s with all the ‘mindset training”? People involved in many MLMs are sent on seminars, webinars and told to read books to help them achieve success. These trainings pretty much all say the same thing- keep on going. If it isn’t working, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough or you don’t believe in yourself enough. It’s a form of victim blaming. It sells books and keeps people bringing in money to the MLMs a little bit longer. These courses and books cost money and you are just paying to be told it is all your fault. It is not your fault, you are not being lazy or not believing enough. The odds are just stacked against you, you will never make any money in an MLM.

Here is a snippet from

‘Become a Network Marketing Superstar’ by Mary Christensen.

book quote

 

4. This leads on nicely to the concept of The Law of Attraction.  Have you been told about this?  The idea is that if you think positively and visualise good things, then good things will happen to you and you can achieve anything.  Seems harmless enough doesn’t it? This is why people go virtual house hunting and are encouraged to visualise their dreams. This is also why negative thoughts and people are discouraged, in case they bring on negativity and failure.

People who believe in The Law of Attraction believe that good things happen to positive people and bad things happen to negative people, because of the ‘frequency’ of these thoughts.  This is why people get caught up in wars, car accidents, illness, plane crashes.  They have brought it upon themselves, even if they don’t realise it. Does this really sound plausible?  Could it be a concept that just makes people keep their business going a bit longer, blaming their nagging doubts for lack of success?  Could it be making people lose contact with friends and family who are warning them against MLMs?  Could it be preventing people from voicing their concerns to other business owners or admitting them to themselves?  Could it be the case that going to all the mindset training where these ideas are encouraged is making some people a lot of money?

 

5. You may be finding that your friends and family are at best neutral, but more likely to be ‘negative’ towards you and the business. They are not being closed minded or jealous, they are concerned for you. You may be encouraged to remove these people from your life and surround yourself by like-minded people. This is not ok. Losing friends and family and becoming isolated is what happens to people in abusive relationships. Please do not write off people who you see as doubters, they care about you and will be happy to reconnect with you. They are not the evil, negative haters that you have been led to believe, they care about you.

6. Is the product you sell really that great? Is it a little overpriced? Are you encouraged to buy a lot of it yourself? Are you encouraged to get your downlines to buy it? Are you the real customer? Here is an interesting clip about the theory of ‘redirecting your spending’. https://youtu.be/T022sL3Negg

Without a product, the MLM would be a pyramid scheme. You buy the product, voila, the whole thing is legal.

7. But there are many successful people out there, claiming to be millionaires. They can retire after a few years and keep on being paid. Really? Have you met any people who have retired from an MLM? Have you seen ANY evidence of this? Have you heard of ‘fake it til you make it? People buy the person, not the product etc’. You may have been told to bend the truth about your own success to encourage others to join you. 

They are ALL doing that. Fake holiday pictures, covering up bonus cheque amounts, renting expensive houses, pretending they bought them. Here is a tongue in cheek parody about MLMs and a post on faking it until you make it.

8.  But I’ve seen people at the global rally and the massive cheques! Yes, but how many people get those cheques? What have they sacrificed to get there? How much have they spent of their own money to get those cheques? Where are the people who were brandishing those cheques 20-30 years ago?

 

I hope that reading this document has given you something to think about. If you are worried about something that you are doing, or been asked to do and feel you are in too deep, speak to someone. There is support out there. Friends, family, other people who escaped MLMs. You will not be treated like you were stupid or you are a failure. Your friends and family will be glad to have you back.

 

If you want to chat to people who are concerned about MLMs and will welcome your thoughts, join us on Mumsnet where there is a series of lengthy ongoing discussions about it all. You can be anonymous and you will receive a supportive ear. Just jump in at the most recent thread, you don’t have to read it all, that would take weeks. There are a few ex MLM people on here and they discuss why they left and why there is concern for people who are still involved.

Mumsnet thread

Are you or someone you know in an MLM? Having doubts?