May 2012

My complaint about Sit and Slim is upheld. But what about that wraparound?

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I have received lots of comments on my blog posts Lose weight by sitting down? and I have complained to the Advertising Standards Agency about Sit and Slim.  Muriji promote the use of their chairs - at considerable expense - in five locations, one of which is in New Malden, and a number of local people feel they have been misled and ripped off by this company.

Today I feel entirely vindicated - which is definitely a good feeling.  

Three other people (encouraged by my blog) also complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the adverts by Miruji for Sit and Slim chairs, and the ASA added in some further issues. Altogether they submitted seven different issues to the ASA Council, and the Council upheld all of them.

You can read the judgement here, but in essence it states:

1. The so-called trial at Hellesdon Hospital "did not show that Sit and Slim could result in weight reduction, improve self-esteem, increase confidence, reduce or eliminate aches and pains, facilitate the healing and prevention of injuries or improve sleep" so the claims "had not been substantiated and were misleading".

2. Phrases like 'NHS Hospital trial' were misleading because it "was not NHS-approved or formal research". 

3. The claim that the chair was worth £10,000 was not substantiated.

4. The claim that the Sit and Slim chair could reduce blood pressure breached the rules about advertising health related products.

5. The ads also breached the rules about advertising treatments for obesity.

6. Miruji did not provide documentary evidence that one of the testimonials was genuine.

7. The ads "gave the impression that weight loss would be a direct and inevitable consequence of using the programme itself and that it was unlikely to be clear to readers that any weight reduction would have to come entirely from lifestyle changes that they would have to implement themselves."

The conclusion is very clear.

"The ads must not appear again in their current form."

Muruji are also advised to consult the ASA advice team before creating any more ads.

I was actually sent a copy of the judgment on Thursday 19th April, embargoed until today. The judgement became operative on the day before that and Miruji would have had sight of it earlier in the week.

So you can imagine my surprise at finding a four page advertorial for Sit and Slim wrapped around  the Kingston Guardian dated 19th April. The ad repeated all the claims that were trashed by the ASA. The company must have known that the judgement was imminent and decided to have one last go.

I phoned ASA about the wraparound, and they talked about the lead time for preparing and placing an ad in the local press, so could not criticise them. Of course, they will take action if any new ads appear in the future.

However, the company's website still makes many of the claims that have been criticised by the ASA. (I won't do them a favour by providing a link to the website from my blog, but you know how to Google)

I've also passed all my information on to the Surrey Comet/Kingston Guardian, so I hope they will cover the story soon.

 

 

"The Work of Local Authorities (1943)"

The British Council has just released an archive of 120 short public information films from the 1940s which you can watch online. They recreate another age - although I have to keep reminding myself that this was what life was like for my parents when I was born.

This film explains local government, at a time when Councils controlled far more services than they do now.  That really was localism. 

See if you can spot the shots of Kingston's Ancient Market and the Guildhall, when the current building was only a few years old.

Local Government (1943) from British Council Film on Vimeo.

Thanks to Stephen Tall on Lib Dem Voice for unearthing this gem.

 

The Queen's Speech - some silver linings

There's actually some good stuff in the Queen's speech today - thanks, I have to say, to the Lib Dem involvement in the Coalition.

For several years Vince Cable has been saying that the retail and investment arms of banks should be separated from each other. The kind of banking services that individuals and small businesses use should be protected from the risks associated with high level gambling. It won't prevent people taking risks, if they wish, through the investment sector but the consequences will fall solely on the investors. At last we have promised legislation to bring that about.

Nick Clegg's proposals for flexible parental leave have made it in to the Queen's Speech. Parents will be able to choose for themselves how to split the total parental leave to which they are entitled.

Ed Davey is taking through some excellent environmental policies that had been developed by Chris Huhne, including the Green Investment Bank and the Energy Bill and we are promised legislation for both during the coming year.

Before he took on his new job, Ed was developing the idea of a Groceries Adjudicator to ensure that suppliers are treated fairly by the big supermarkets. That will now happen.

I also like the idea of giving shareholders a vote on directors' pay (though would personally like employees to have that right as well) - another of Vince's proposals.

Then we come to reform of the House of Lords, and the chance to finally implement the agreement made in Westminster over 100 years ago! Tories are claiming that it is a distraction from the measures needed to sort out the economy, but frankly that argument could be used to delay almost any piece of legislation. I really don't understand why they are opposed to a smaller House, having already imposed a smaller House of Commons on us, with all the complex bureaucracy of the Boundaries Review. And today it does seem bizarre to be advocating an upper house consisting largely of those who have found favour with the Government, instead of a body chosen democratically by the people.

The one proposal that I am very unhappy about is the Draft Communications Bill - that is the one that will extend snooping, requiring ISPs to keep full details of every email you send, every message you tweet and every phone call you make. This was going to be pushed through by the Tories a couple of months ago, but Lib Dem intervention has slowed down the process so it will be subjected to greater scrutiny. However, we still need to be vigilant.

From Lib Dem Voice: Mystery of fake leaflets in North Richmond

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I posted this earlier today on Lib Dem Voice:

The leaflet below appears to be normal Lib Dem election literature. It was one of three distributed widely over night on May2nd/3rd for the council by-election in North Richmond, in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. You may wonder why it is titled Comments instead of Focus, but that is what Lib Dems have always called their leaflets in Richmond.

Indeed, the layout and photos are exact copies of earlier Lib Dem election leaflets. The bar chart, grumble sheet and contact details all look authentic. The writing style is credible.

But a closer inspection reveals something very worrying. The main story is completely false. (Click the image to view a larger version)

North Richmond fake leaflet

It states:

Jane Dodds will be campaigning with local Lib Dems to increase social housing in North Richmond by bringing forward plans to develop the Sainsbury’s Supermarket site at Manor Road.

The Sainsbury’s site offers an ideal opportunity for a high rise development to significantly expand social housing, building a further 550 one and two bedroom apartments on top of the Manor Road Sainsbury’s.

This is quite outrageous. The local Lib Dems were certainly notcampaigning for 550 flats to be built above their local Sainsbury’s. The leaflet is a fake.

Two more similar fake leaflets were circulated before polls opened.  In one the Lib Dem candidate apparently supported the use of the local Premier Inn for emergency homeless accommodation for migrants, and in the other proposed converting a pub into hostel accommodation for drug or alcohol dependent young people and for recently released prisoners, neither of which was true. We can all see where the narrative is going: references to social housing, EU migrants, homelessness,  addiction and ex-cons are coupled with ‘bleeding heart’ Lib Dem concern for the vulnerable.

The leaflets do not, of course, carry an imprint, but that is a minor legal issue compared with the damage done to the democratic process. A number of local voters have admitted that they were taken in by the leaflets, decided not to vote Lib Dem as a result and voted Conservative in protest. This was a seat that we were hoping to take back from the Conservatives, but Jane Dodds lost by 146 votes.

Jane’s agent was Roger Hayes (one of Mark Pack’s local liberal heroes) and he spent much of polling day talking with the police from Special Operations and Anti-Terrorism, which we all still refer to as Special Branch. The police are taking the matter very seriously and are treating the leaflets as fraudulent.  The Representation of the People Act 1983 created an offence of “undue influence” which may be relevant to this case.

Anti-terrorist officers are examining CCTV footage to try to identify who delivered the leaflets. It is most unlikely, though not impossible, that one of the main political parties would carry off a stunt like this, but it is a challenge to work out who would go to the trouble of designing, printing and distributing such convincing and subtle fakes.

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