The banner ad from Healthways Distribution Ltd showed before and after pictures of a man’s body with text that translated from Polish as: “Such a change in just two weeks! … Find out how he did it.”
The company which trades as mens-strong failed to respond to the ASA’s enquiries, which the ASA noted was in itself a breach of CAP Code rule 1.7 covering 'unreasonable delay'.
The ASA said it was "concerned" by the company's "apparent disregard" for the rules.
The ASA ruling stated: "We noted that the claim 'Such a change in just two weeks!' along with the before and after pictures suggested that the marketed product could lead to weight-loss and the changes shown in the pictures. However, because we had not seen evidence showing that this was the case, we concluded that the claim along with the before and after pictures in the ad had not been substantiated and were misleading."
An ASA ruling outside of the UK?
Asked whether it could be argued a Polish-language site was not targeting UK consumers, a spokesperson for the ASA told us: “This fell under our remit because it’s a UK based website and the company is UK based, it just happens to have been written in Polish and shown on a Polish language website. There is an alliance of self-regulatory organisations across Europe and the wider global community that we work with and who police advertising in their own jurisdictions.
"This particular complaint was forwarded to us from EASA (European Advertising Standards Alliance) as the advertiser’s office was based in the UK. Where an advertiser is based abroad then we refer to an EASA counterpart or other.”
However the ASA said it did not have any ambitions to expand its geographical remit. "We’re a UK regulator, we are not looking to and nor do we need the funds to look beyond the UK."
Healthways distribution Ltd were told that the ad must not appear again in its current form: "We told mens-strong not to make claims relating to their products unless they were supported by robust evidence relating to trials on people and otherwise complied with the Code."