Proper trials to prove your claims cost a lot of money. And there’s no guarantee a trial is going to give you the results you want. So the obvious question is can you get away with just launching the product and using the feedback you get from your customers as evidence of your claims?
The answer is yes, but only up to a point. Advertising has to be true. You can’t tell bare faced lies. But if somebody has written a letter praising your offering it is legitimate to make use of that fact.
There are however some limits to this. You can’t use anecdotes to make health claims. This is obvious the case of pharmaceutical claims. If someone writes in and says the used your stuff and it cured their cancer, then clearly you can’t claim an anti-cancer effect. But there is also the regulations regarding health claims made for foods. (Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods is EU).
A company called PBO skincare fell foul of this when they used a testimonial from one of their customers to promote a collagen health supplement.
The claims made were –
“skin has become more […] hydrated”;
“lines and wrinkles have drastically reduced”
“Her skin has become more plump”
“her skin tone has improved”.
Somebody complained that this was a health claim. Interestingly, the Advertising Standards Agency didn’t regard the wrinkles, lines, plumpness and skin tone as health claims. They did however think that the hydration claim was. To make this claim they require robust scientific proof.
This product is a supplement, and the regulations around products applied directly to the skin aren’t quite as clear cut. There are lots of skin creams that claim hydration as a benefit, and there’s a pretty good case to be made from the scientific literature for a well formulated skin cream to be hydrating. But I’ll be keeping an eye on future judgements from the ASA in this area.