Skincare company falls foul of advertising standards ruling

An image from the PCK Skin website

A Manchester skincare company has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to run a misleading campaign.

The industry watchdog upheld a complaint against PCK Skin, trading as Skinspace, over a promotional email.

The regulator has ordered the company, based in Droylsden, never to promote prescription-only medicines to the general public.

A complaint was received over an email bearing the subject line: “40% OFF! IN THE FIGHT AGAINST VIRUSES!”.

The text in the body of the email stated: “ITS [sic] TIME TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY! IN THE FIGHT AGAINST VIRUSES! BOOK IN FOR YOUR VITAMIN D & B12 SHOTS! SUPPORTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM, LUNG FUNCTION AND AIDS FASTER RECOVERY FROM ILLNESS & VIRUSES!”.

However, the complainant challenged whether the ad breached the advertising industry code because it promoted prescription-only medicines (POMs).

The company said the email was only sent to its client database who were current clients or had opted in to receive communications from SKINSPACEUK.

It said a full consultation by the treating medical practitioner was always undertaken prior to administration of any POM.

It said it also required a recent blood test to determine if there was any deficiency present.

A client would have to present with a deficiency before any treatment was given, and the company said the overall benefits of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, including on immunity, were well documented worldwide in clinical studies, citations and media outlets.

The company said it would ensure no further campaigns were sent referring to any prescription-only medicine.

Upholding the complaint, the ASA said the advertising of prescription-only medicines to the general public was prohibited by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

It said it understood that all licensed forms of injectable vitamin D and injectable vitamin B12 were prescription-only medicines.

The ad stated “BOOK IN FOR YOUR VITAMIN D & B12 SHOTS” and was sent to existing SKINSPACEUK customers, who were consumers, rather than medical professionals.

The ad promoted prescription-only medicines to the general public and, therefore, breached the code.

Also, the ASA said that, notwithstanding the promotion of the medicines referred to in the ad to the general public was prohibited, it also assessed the specific claims made for them.

The email stated “ITS [sic] TIME TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY! … SUPPORTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM, LUNG FUNCTION AND AIDS FASTER RECOVERY FROM ILLNESS & VIRUSES!”.

In the context of a global pandemic of coronavirus/COVID-19, consumers were likely to understand that “VIRUSES” included coronavirus.

Therefore, the ad gave the impression to recipients that the vitamin D and vitamin B12 injections being sold were effective in helping to prevent or treat coronavirus/COVID-19.

The ASA told the company that the ad must not appear again in the form complained about.

“We told PCK SKIN (Manchester) Ltd t/a SKINSPACEUK to ensure they did not promote prescription-only medicines to the general public,” the ASA said.

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