Firm takes hit for customer’s online promotion: ‘If you benefit from it, you’re responsible for it’

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

Direct selling company comes under ASA scrutiny after Facebook promoter makes bundle of unauthorised health claims
Direct selling company comes under ASA scrutiny after Facebook promoter makes bundle of unauthorised health claims

Related tags: Marketing

Multi-level marketer Le-Vel Brands has been penalised by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the social media marketing of one of its promoter-come-customers.

The ASA upheld the complaint from a member of the public that the advert for its botanical and probiotic nutraceutical drink violated the European Union’s 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

US-based Le-Vel did not respond to the substance of the complaint, but said it did not believe the ad had been placed by one of its “promoters”​. It said the affiliate's account had since been closed as a result of the enquiries. 

The self-proclaimed premium lifestyle brand is a direct selling company that markets its products through independent promoters, which customers can sign up to on the website.

The advert was posted by promoter/affiliate Annemarie Huigen on the Facebook group Kent Professionals. Huigen maintained she was a promoter for the firm and it had created the advert.

On her Facebook page the Brit wrote she was: “A promoter for this fantastic fast growing company from the USA. Great thing is that I can do it in my PJ's if I want at home. Always looking for like-minded people to join me.”

Her last promotion of the company on her Facebook page was this morning.

This was not the first time the ASA came down hard on a company for the actions of an affiliate.

In November last year it ruled against a dating website​ for people with HIV, Herpes and STIs, which showed an advert for an e-book on how to get rid of herpes naturally.

In February it ruled that against betting website Casino Classic​ for a third-party "free play"​ promotion, which did not give details of a deposit required to be in with a chance to win a cash prize.

The ad in question for the 'Thrive Plus Boost' supplement stated: BOOST is designed to alkalize and energize your system with each serving, the result is enhanced energy levels, enhanced weight management through detox & cleansing support, immune support, free radical support and PH level support."

The ASA found the advert was littered with unauthorised claims and concluded: As the beneficiaries of the marketing material, we considered Le-Vel were responsible for the ad and for ensuring it complied with the Code.”

Passionate publicists

On its website the company said: “The largest and most successful companies in the world are extremely good at one thing. They build brands, not products. They are so good at this one focus, they can literally put their logo on anything and it is passionately accepted worldwide.

There is no obligation to purchase products to become a promoter, however these promoters were reminded that their success and the success of their fellow promoters depended on the “integrity of the men and women who market Le-Vel products and services”​.

Promoters could climb a ladder of varying perks – from free products to bonuses to VIP holidays – as part of its aggressive and innovative compensation plan”​ which depended on how many promoters they had enrolled and how active those promoters became.

In the promoter agreement terms, it stated: “I understand I may not use my own income as an indication of others’ potential success or use the compensation earnings as marketing materials.”

A promotion video for the company showed various testimonies of success, including one woman who said she was able to buy a car for her daughter with the money she earned.

Promoters also have access to confidential information through the Le-Vel website, which they cannot pass on to third parties.

The ASA regulates the content and placement of adverts, not the actual trading practice, which would fall under the remit of local Trading Standards authorities.

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