Clearcast, the RACC and the ASA launch a panel of experts in the field of dermatology

15/12/2011

A new panel of dermatological experts advising Clearcast, RACC and the ASA starts work on 3 January 2012.

The common panel of experts will provide advice on the adequacy of evidence supporting claims in ads both before an ad appears and afterwards if the claims are challenged.

The initiative is designed to address some areas of disagreement between experts advising the different bodies. These disagreements have resulted in some, primarily TV, ads being found to be misleading by the ASA, when they had been assessed and accepted by the clearance bodies and their own experts.

The establishment of the panel of experts is also intended to:

  • Reduce disagreement between experts over acceptable standards of evidence.
  • Increase certainty for advertisers.
  • Increase consumer confidence in advertising claims in the beauty sector.
  • Provide consistency between experts through establishing protocols on how scientific evidence for advertising claims should be assessed, with new guidance on Guidance on test protocols for certain claims in cosmetic advertising.
  • Provide transparency by outlining the criteria and basis on which expertise is sought.

It is envisaged that all parties will seek to use this resource without bias as far as possible. However, it is recognised that there are operational reasons that may govern the choice of an expert in some circumstances.

Although the intention is to increase consistency, this new procedure will not prevent the ASA from looking into complaints it receives about ads and removing claims that it finds in breach of the Advertising Codes.

 

The Panel of experts in dermatology consists of the current Clearcast, ASA and RACC experts:

Dr Susan Mayou

Prof. Mark Birch-Machin

Dr Robin Dover

Dr Jack Ferguson

Dr Chris Gummer

 

Steps in the process

 

a)  Pre-Clearance - Expert assesses evidence submission and advises accordingly.

In the event that they have queries about a specific issue that needs further consideration by the expert panel, an expert can refer questions initially to another expert or, in the event of disagreement or need for further clarity, to the whole Panel (see (d)).

 

 b)  Complaint and pre-Investigation – ASA Executive assesses complaint and where necessary, will ask clearance body for response.

For the initial consideration of a complaint, the ASA will always ask the clearance body to get confirmation from the expert who considered the initial submission that they are still content with the evidence, in light of the complaint.

It is worth noting that, whilst the ASA will always seek to resolve any issues of evidence directly, using the expert who has pre-cleared evidence for a submission, there may be possible legal difficulties in using the same expert for an investigation.  It might call into question the ASA’s independence and exercise of its own judgement if it is thought to rely on an expert who had already committed themselves to a view for a clearance body, which they might be viewed as reluctant to change.

 

c)  Investigation – If the ASA feels that there is still an issue to be resolved on the point of complaint, then they will use another expert from the panel to help resolve that issue. 

Examples of potential issues might include: (a) A complaint throws new light on the data and the advice already received by the clearance body is not relevant or does not cover this point, (b) The initial expert’s advice leaves significant issues unanswered, and (c) The claims made in the ad are considered by the ASA to be “significant developments in science” (or “breakthrough” claims), but were considered to be more established claims by the clearance body.

 

d) Disagreement protocols – If there is no consensus between the experts during the course of the investigation, and one or other feel strongly that they disagree with the original assessment, then there is an opportunity to put the specific issue to the panel for a consensus opinion. 

Please note that whilst this opinion will help inform the decision-making process of the ASA Council, on all matters, including an assessment of how the claim is likely to be interpreted by the consumer, the ASA Council is the final arbiter.

 

e) Panel operation including consensus voting – Issues to be put to the full panel would normally be specific and precise in nature, and would hopefully fall on specific points that can be covered and decided quickly via the use of e-mail. 

We would not normally expect the panel to consider full submissions of evidence. However, it is recognised that it may be necessary to consider such submissions, in order to gain consensus on a specific point.

Decisions will be decided by a majority vote of the panel.

 

f) Expert representation externally – The panel will operate internally to the three organisations with no recourse for external organisations to make representations directly to the panel.

Advertisers and their agencies should not approach the panel directly for any queries they may have. These should continue to be channelled through the appropriate organisation.

 

To find out more about the members of the panel, please see any of the following Clearcast and ASA webpages:

http://www.clearcast.co.uk/dermatology.html

http://www.asa.org.uk/Resource-Centre/Our-experts/dermatological-experts-biographies.aspx