Part 1 explained why people must not make health claims for products that have not been licenced, tested or shown to work. It looked at the law, agencies involved and showed examples of bad practice.
How do you know if a product has the correct licence to be sold as a health product or medicine (enabling you to make health claims)?
To sell or supply a medicine in the UK a company must hold a wholesale dealer’s licence (WDA) from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Click here for the register of licenced wholesale distribution companies.
JuicePlus, Forever Living, Ariix and ItWorks do not appear on this list. I have contacted the MHRA to ask if they hold any licence enabling them to make health claims on their products. They do not.
If you find yourself selling a product that you believe to have a positive health benefit and you have discovered it does not have the correct licencing to be considered a medicine, maybe it could be classed as a herbal remedy? Luckily for the consumer, this area is heavily regulated too. Since May 2014 it has been the law that herbal remedies have to be licenced by the MHRA as a Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR). Such products will have this symbol on them-
This means that the product has been tested for-
- Contents of product
- Information provided on side effects
- Information on contra-indications with other drugs
- Information for pregnant women
- Information for people with certain medical conditions
This mark does not show that the herbal remedy works, just that it is what it says it is and it has been traditionally used as a herbal remedy for certain conditions for more than 30 years. More information can be found at WebMD.
You can look on the packaging for the THR mark. If you want to order a product and don’t have the packaging to hand, you can search the database here on the MHRA’s website for the company and product. This list shows the name of the product, which herbal ingredients it contains and what these ingredients have traditionally been used for. I have asked Forever Living if any of their products have the THR mark. They said that they do not.
If you are selling products within an MLM company in the health and wellness sector, you may now be concerned about how you can sell these products.
You will probably have been told in trainings that your products are fantastic at curing all sorts of things. You have probably heard testimonials about how the products have helped people that you know, or heard of them at group meetings. This is an extract taken from a training manual from Forever Living in November 2013, encouraging their distributors to make health claims when prospecting for customers-
You can access the whole manual here. I believe there is a more upto date manual but this has to be paid for and as a non-member of FLP, I am not going to buy one.
You have already found out the product does not have the correct legal approval. You are not allowed to
- say your product cures anything
- show any evidence from studies/books showing it is effective if you are also selling the product
- give any first or second hand testimonials
- verbally recommend a product for a specific condition
- say the product enhances natural performance e.g metabolism, energy levels.
Here is a Forever Living manual that sets how not to make health claims. The last two pages set out the law and what is and isn’t allowed and would be useful to anyone selling ‘wellness’ products in an MLM.
How can you sell products without breaking the rules?
You have to resist the urge to make any health claims or imply them. You don’t want to break the law or get in trouble with the ASA, MHRA or your MLM.
You would have to just concentrate on other qualities of the product, such as how great it tastes or what a lovely colour it is. Try selling the product on how lovely the packaging is and what it could be used for when it is empty. A nice rocket or a vase maybe? I am obviously joking here because it is clear that the products are meant to be sold as health products and encouragement will be given for you to sell it as such.
One woman in an MLM noticed the contradictions between what she was being told to do in official trainings and what she was allowed to do. She became concerned that there was no legal way to sell the products. She complained to the company. They said there was no problem. She complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and the Direct Selling Association (DSA) who found in her favour. She details the complaints she made and the outcomes very clearly in this damning complaint. She was fired.
What can consumers or concerned people do if they discover blatant examples of health claims being made for a product that is not correctly licenced?
I would not bother with a complaint to the MLM itself. My personal experience is that they acknowledge it is non-compliant but nothing is done.
- You could complain to the ASA for a breach of advertising rules. They cover online promoting, not just printed and televised adverts. You can make an online complaint on their website.
- You could complain to the MHRA. They say “Our experts in the Inspection, Enforcement and Standards division can help assist investigating claims being made on the products and you are welcome to provide this information and the websites of the distributors to the following email address below and our experts who action as necessary.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org”
- You could contact the offender and tell them they are breaking the rules and they could get into trouble. Give them the link to this blog or cut and paste this warning-
You have been making health claims for a product that does not have the correct legal paperwork. By making these claims you are breaking the law and the policies of your company. You could get yourself into serious trouble with the authorities if reported. Or worse, someone could be harmed if they follow your advice. Please amend the wording or delete this claim.
- You could give the person a link to the following sites for them to research for themselves the dangers of MLMs and some shocking stories from people who used to be involved in MLMs. A lot of the areas covered involve false advertising. Hopefully they might think twice about what they are doing.
facebook.com/timelessvie – a parody of a made up MLM to highlight the practices used by real MLMs.
facebook.com/liestopper – the Bot Watch Facebook page which contains useful facts for MLM people on how not to break rules. Also Bot Watch warns people about their false claims and seeks to have them removed.
timelessvie.wordpress.com – a blog linked to the Timeless Vie Facebook page. Interesting articles from ex MLM people and insightful posts on how MLMs operate.
@Timeless Vie – the Twitter account for Timeless Vie.
The Mumsnet Discussion on MLMs- http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/legal_money_matters/2578946-Cant-Stop-Wont-Stop-MLM-Botwatch-10-Now-Featuring-MLMers-who-dont-answer-questions-jokes-posts-by-eyes-questions-about-Forever-Living-Ariix-Younique-Jamberry-etc-as-scambralamas?pg=21
blogwatchblog.blogspot.com – this blog