Misleading treatment claims

BSA ex-Chair Leys Geddes has been involved in a campaign against claims that give false hope by offering to 'cure' stammering. From March 2011, new rules now allow us to extend this to 'editorial' claims on websites.

Update July 2011: following a complaint by the British Stammering Association, on 13th July the Advertising Standards Authority issued an adjudication against a a website which claimed for example "...Discover how to stop stuttering with stammering cure that works..." Link to Advertising Standards Authority adjudication.

Update May 2011: The Advertising Standards Authority have just announced that, following a complaint by the BSA, a stammering course has agreed to amend treatment claims such as "Unique 2-day fluency coaching enabling confident, fluent, stammer-free speech in adults & children. The results are immediate!".

'Tell Us The Truth About Stammering' is a video Leys has published as a part of BSA's campaign to stop organisations claiming that they can 'cure' stammering. (Link to video on YouTube)

The British Stammering Association has campaigned for several years to eradicate misleading advertising claims made by stammering treatment providers. Some claim, for example, that they can 'cure' or 'eliminate' stammering.  But it is not possible to 'cure' a stammer, in the accepted medical sense of the word.  Accordingly, we believe such claims not only give false hope to those who stammer - but also give people who don't stammer the false impression that stammering can easily be rectified.

Respectable healthcare companies carry out independent trials on large numbers of people, over long periods of time, before they are allowed to claim any kind of benefit for their products or services.  It should be exactly the same with claims for stammering treatments.

Our campaign has been conducted in two ways:

  • firstly, by encouraging treatment providers who are making doubtful claims to provide supporting data and, if they cannot do so, to moderate those claims;
  • secondly, in cases where the the treatment provider does not co-operate, we have reported their advertisements to our Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who have investigated the claims and, if they prove to be unsupportable, have instructed them to remove the offending advertisement and to amend any future claims.

New ASA rules

In the past, the ASA has only acted against claims made in paid-for advertising.  But, as from 1st March 2011, they will also act against misleading claims made in editorial copy on websites (Landmark agreement extends ASA's digital remit (link to asa.org.uk)).

BSA has therefore started making some complaints to the ASA about claims made on websites. For an up-to-date list of adjudications and informally resolved cases as a result of BSA action, please check out the ASA website.