The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has consistently upheld complaints against non-food products making ‘organic’ claims where the ad claims implicitly or explicitly that an independent standard has been met.
Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) understands that there is no UK standard for organic cosmetics, but that some independent certification bodies have created standards which require a high proportion of organic ingredients. CAP recommends that if a product meets a specific certification body standard, advertisers consider explaining this in their advertising copy in order to avoid implying that a single, independently defined or widely-recognised UK standard exists. Advertisers should avoid describing the whole range as “organic” if only a portion of the range has been certified.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “Little Me Organics” to mean the product met an independently defined organic standard or used a high proportion of organic ingredients. Because the product used a low proportion of the organic ingredients (5%) and there was no UK standard for organic cosmetics, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading (Boots UK Ltd, 17 October 2012).
In another example, the ASA did not accept the advertiser’s argument that “Organic Based Colour” and “Italian Organic Lifestyle” were used to communicate the advertiser’s philosophy in relation to its hair dye products. The ASA concluded that in the context of the ad, the claims would be understood to mean that the hair dye products were entirely organic and met an independently defined organic standard in the UK. As no such standards existed, the ad was misleading (Candy Harbour Ltd, 26 September 2012).
In the absence of a UK standard, the ASA may consider evidence in relation to the standards of another country. CAP would advise that advertising copy makes clear that the claim is based on a foreign standard and will, as always, need to hold evidence substantiating this claim. The ASA upheld complaints against the claims “Simply Organic” and “Naturally Organic” because there was no UK standard for organic hair products and because the advertiser did not provide sufficient documentation to show that the advertised products were certified organic by an independently defined or established US standard (Simply Organic, 28 July 2010).
Advertisers should take care not to contradict claims. One advertiser described a candle as being ‘organic’ whilst stating that certification companies did not allow waxes to be classed as organic because of the process of turning oil into wax which the ASA considered to contradict rather than qualify the claim (NEOM Ltd t/a NEOM Luxury Organics, 9 January 2013).
See ‘Organic foods‘
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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