Fake doctor’s endorsement in national newspaper ad

  1. On 8 November 2017, I saw an unclear and opaque ad in the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was for Nytric EFX, a food supplement that allegedly improves “sexual performance” in men: Daily Mirror 8 Nov 2017. The advertiser identified itself as Stirling Health Ltd. I complained to the company about two issues in the ad. In each case its response was unsatisfactory. So I then complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising.
  2. The first issue was that both the ad and the Stirling Health website (screen shot in Figure 1) display an endorsement of Nytric EFX by Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Yet I can’t find him on DoctorFinder when searching by name for Jack Johnson in state Massachusetts. DoctorFinder is the online doctor search tool from the American Medical Association. It includes “virtually every licensed physician in the United States” – “more than 814 000 doctors.”

    Figure 1. Dr Jack Johnson endorses Nytric EFX on Stirling Health website at 14 November 2017

  3. I asked Stirling Health in an email why Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA isn’t listed on DoctorFinder. Its response was unacceptable. It wrote: “I can confirm the doctors who endorse our products and adverts do not use thier (sic) real names to protect their identity and avoid infulxes (sic) of people trying to contact them, when its (sic) us that can assist witrh (sic) any queries.” As you can see, the response isn’t credible. It’s illiterate too. My reasonable suspicion is Dr Jack Johnson doesn’t exist.
  4. Emily Henwood of the ASA said in an email the company had told the regulator it would no longer use the testimonial from the alleged Dr Jack Johnson in its advertising. This was following involvement of the ASA compliance team.
  5. The second problem with the ad is: wheres Stirling Health Ltd registered, if it’s registered anywhere? There’s no UK-registered company called Stirling Health Ltd, according to Companies House records. The company said in an email “Stirling Health” (note: without the “Ltd”) was registered “in the US”. It told me the registered office address is in Florida, USA. It quoted the Florida address then on the Stirling Health” (again, no “Ltd”) website (https://web.archive.org/web/20170705024734/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). The company stated it isn’t actually registered in Florida, though, after I pointed out there’s no Florida-registered company called “Stirling Health Ltd” or “Stirling Health,” according to the official register at Sunbiz (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/).
  6. The company refused to disclose where exactly in the USA its registered, explaining in an email it was “confidential, and commercially sensitive” information. Again, the response would be laughable, if wasn’t so serious. Any legitimate business would be happy to both disclose its name and say where it’s registered. Both pieces of information should be public. In short, is Stirling Health Ltd a genuine company? If so, where exactly in the USA is it registered? It’s not enough to simply say “in the US”.
  7. The ASA’s response on this point was disappointing: the regulator wouldn’t be taking it further, said Ms Henwood in an email. She added: “The Code [the CAP Code] states that marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. For marketing communications that quote prices for advertised products, material information includes the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer. While we appreciate your concern that it isn’t clear where the company is registered, we note that the advertisers have included a trading name and contact details for consumers to get in contact with them. Given this, we consider that the ad is unlikely to mislead consumers on the basis that you suggest and does not break the rules.”
  8. At date of publication the Stirling Health website continues not to disclose where the company is registered. One change, though: the Florida address has disappeared. It now specifies an address in central London: 88-90 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8PG (https://web.archive.org/web/20180206063513/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). This is merely the address of a virtual office, you won’t be surprised to learn.
  9. A fake limited company flogging dubious “health products” from national newspaper ads, and hiding behind a virtual office address – it reminds me of Health Broadcast Ltd, a firm I first wrote about on 15 August 2017. Private Eye recently reported my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by that fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see last post).
  10. Oh, this isn’t the first time a Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX has come to the attention of the ASA. In 2010, the regulator banned one of its ads for misleading health claims (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7195031/Advert-for-pills-that-guaranteed-sex-life-of-you-dreams-is-banned.html). It isn’t just on Health Broadcast Ltd where the Mirror continues to fail its readers, therefore. How much or how little due diligence did the newspaper do on the latest Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX?
  11. Further evidence of how little: the Mirror’s excellent Andrew Penman wrote about Stirling Health Ltd in his column ten years ago, when the ASA again censured several, not just one, of its ads for misleading health claims (https://www.mirror.co.uk/opinion/money-opinion/p-s-investigates/triple-dose-of-health-rubbish-from-guernsey-534213).
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Private Eye reports exposés of national newspaper ads by fake limited company for “detox foot patches”

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1462) reports my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by a fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see previous post and the reference there).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Heres a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see top right corner: Private Eye 1462.

Ad again for “detox foot patches” in Daily Mirror – despite Dr Miriam Stoppard’s warning

  1. On 19 December 2017, Daily Mirror health columnist Dr Miriam Stoppard rightly dismissed “detox foot patches” as a sham. But something she didn’t mention: her newspaper carried ads for them earlier last year (see 19 December 2017 post).
  2. Well, the same advertiser, Health Broadcast Ltd, is today (17 January 2018) back in the Mirror with a full-page ad for… “detox foot patches”: Daily Mirror 17 Jan 2018.
  3. Why does the Daily Mirror continue to fail its readers this way?

Dr Miriam Stoppard dismisses “detox foot patches” as a sham – but Daily Mirror carried ads for them earlier this year

  1. On 19 December 2017, Daily Mirror health columnist Dr Miriam Stoppard rightly dismissed “detox foot patches” as a sham: Daily Mirror 19 Dec 2017.
  2. But something she didn’t mention: her newspaper carried ads for them earlier this year. See, for example, this ad on 25 January 2017: Daily Mirror 25 Jan 2017 p.24. The same ad also appeared on 7 March 2017: Daily Mirror 7 Mar 2017 p.35.
  3. The advertiser is Health Broadcast Ltd, a company I wrote about on 15 August 2017. As I then pointed out, there’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register. Further, the company didn’t respond to emails asking why it isn’t on the Companies House register.
  4. My 15 August 2017 post describes my complaints to the Daily Mail newspaper after it persisted in publishing ads for Health Broadcast Ltd.

Daily Mail repeatedly publishes ads for fake limited company

  1. The Daily Mail persists in publishing full-page ads for a fake limited company, despite my complaints to the newspaper.
  2. Health Broadcast Ltd is the advertiser. There’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
  3. I first came across Health Broadcast Ltd ads in the Mail on 11 March 2017, in an ad for “detox foot patches”: Daily Mail 11 Mar 2017 p.100. When I rang the freephone number shown, no one could explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “Health Broadcast” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
  4. On the same day, I complained to the Mail’s readers’ editor (email). I received an anonymous response a few days later, thanking me for contacting the newspaper. He/she had “alerted our advertising department and asked them to investigate as a matter of urgency.” I wrote back the same day saying I expected to hear from the Mail in due course.
  5. But I didn’t hear anything.
  6. On 27 May 2017, meanwhile, Health Broadcast Ltd had another full-page ad in the paper; this time for a “pain-relieving gel”: Daily Mail 27 May 2017 p.104. I therefore complained again to the readers’ editor, on 1 June 2017, pointing out this was the second time I’d done so. I finished by asking: why does the Daily Mail persist in betraying its readers for the sake of the advertiser?
  7. I received another anonymous response from the “readers’ editor’s office” the next day. It said: “We have passed your latest email on to our advertising department and asked them to look into it. We will revert to you when we can shed further light on the situation.”
  8. Yet, again, I heard nothing.
  9. On 8 July 2017, I then saw the ad for the “pain-relieving gel” again: Daily Mail 8 July 2017. But Health Broadcast Ltd had changed its trading address to prestigious Mayfair in central London – 43 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5AP. This is the address of Hatton & Berkeley Global Limited (registered company number: 10145165), a professional business services firm. Its services include virtual offices in London; 43 Berkeley Square is its Berkeley Square virtual office address. (www.hattonandberkeley-virtualoffice.com)
  10. On 12 July 2017, I called the phone number in the latest ad, which remained the same after the change in trading address. Again, my call was answered as “Health Broadcast” only. And again, the call handler seemingly couldn’t explain why Health Broadcast Ltd wasn’t registered at Companies House. But he could supply an email address for the alleged limited company: customerservices@healthbroadcastltd.com.
  11. At date of publication I haven’t received a response to emails asking why Health Broadcast Ltd isn’t on the Companies House register.
  12. Also, at date of publication there isn’t a company website at domain healthbroadcastltd.com. Without a website, there’s almost no publicly available information about the alleged limited company. Matthew Ward at UpsilonDM Limited (registered company number: 07207377) is registrant of the domain, according to Whois records. Filings at Companies House show Mr Ward is sole director of UpsilonDM Limited, which has a registered office address in Whitley Bay in North East England.
  13. The Health Broadcast Ltd full-page ads continue in the Daily Mail – the most recent I saw was on 14 August 2017: Daily Mail 14 Aug 2017 p.68. Here I say nothing about the validity (or not) of the health claims in the ads. Rather, I ask only: why is the newspaper persisting in publishing ads for a fake limited company?

Company gets its own name wrong in ad – and ASA says it’s ok

  1. On 11 April 2017, I saw an unclear and misleading ad for the “Bio-Mag Therapy Bracelet” in the Daily Mirror newspaper, p.35. Here’s a scanned copy of the ad: Daily Mirror 11 April 2017 p.35. The advertiser is UK Direct Shop Ltd, which specifies a UK address.
  2. The ad is unclear and misleading because there’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
  3. When I rang the phone number in the ad, no one could explain why UK Direct Shop Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “UK Direct Shop” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
  4. The ad refers to a website, where the company is identified as UK Direct Shop Services Ltd (screen shot in Figure 1). This company is on the Companies House register – registered company number: 09658267.

    Figure 1. UK Direct Shop homepage at 12 April 2017

  5. I complained about the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In an email the advertising regulator dismissed my complaint: “Under the advertising codes, there is no requirement of an advertiser to state their full company name in their own advertising – they only need to ensure that they don’t mislead consumers by omitting their identity. As both you and I have been able to easily locate them on Companies House from the details in the ad [the website], we don’t propose further action on this occasion.”
  6. I told the ASA I was baffled by its reasoning. An inaccurate company name is misleading, too, by definition.
  7. I had thought a consumer could reasonably expect a company to get its own name right in an ad. It seems not.