The authority was compelled to investigate a complaint made by Islington Trading Standards Service, which raised concerns about certain claims, including the use of “clinically proven” and “assists in the reduction of body fat”.
Following its enquiry, the ASA ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove product efficacy in relation to these claims. It also expressed concern about Liquid Lipo’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which breached the Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP) Code.
The ruling states that: “Liquid Lipo did not provide any of the clinical trials referred to in the ad, or any other evidence to support their product’s efficacy. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.”
However, company CEO, Kirsty Smith, says they were never contacted by the Authority and was shocked to learn about the complaint and subsequent ruling.
“I feel this is a deliberate attack on someone trying to reduce fat holistically and I will be challenging it,” she said.
Lack of substantiation
The Wirral-based online retailer specialises in fat reduction and skincare products and proclaims it is committed to transparency and evidence-based research.
According to the company website, Liquid Lipo Fat Dissolve Gel is designed to facilitate fat-reduction. Online literature includes specific claims about the product which, it states, are supported by a peer-reviewed, double-blind study that “assisted fat loss in more than 95% of participants”.
Clinical results are summarised and reinforced with ‘before and after’ images to illustrate significant fat-loss after product use.
In the ruling, published on 18 May, the ASA maintains certain aspects of the ad content gave consumers “the impression that the product could aid the reduction of body fat, and that its efficacy was supported by robust scientific evidence”.
The Authority also scrutinised the ambiguous nature of various ‘before and after’ images which it said “would likely be interpreted as objective visual claims of previous customers’ results”. As such, the inclusion of images reinforced the ad’s overall impression that the product’s efficacy was well established.
The ASA said that claims such as “Binds to fat cells, shrinking them and dissolving the fat”, “Proven to work in 3,000 clinical trials 95% of people lost fat”, and “The fat is broken down into Carbon Dioxide and water, it [sic] excreted from the body” were misleading and it consequently upheld the complaint.
It concluded that the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules on misleading advertising, substantiation, and weight control and slimming.
Liquid Lipo has been advised to remove the online content “in its current form” and requested to provide adequate evidence to support clinical claims.
In addition, the company must no longer state or imply the product could reduce body fat unless it can demonstrate “robust clinical evidence to substantiate their claims”. The company has also been warned to avoid using claims that products are “clinically proven” or to make any other claim about product efficacy without adequate supporting clinical evidence, including full copies of relevant scientific papers.
The matter has been referred to the CAP Compliance team.