Choice raises alarm over regulation of cosmetics advertising

By Leah Armstrong

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cosmetics

Australian consumer watchdog Choice claims that the Australian standards and advertising boards are not doing enough to regulate cosmetics advertisements, which often dazzle the consumer with scientific language and unsubstantiated claims.

The scientific language in cosmetic advertising misleads consumers with ‘a new sophisticated form of advertising dressed up as science’​, says the report published in Choice magazine.

‘Dermo-clinical’ is one of the terms heavily criticized, since it is frequently used in advertising but has yet to be adopted by the clinical/medical industry.

Misleading Language

The article also draws attention to the ‘consumer perception study’, which it says is not objective and warns consumers not to unconditionally trust ‘self-evaluation’, which is unreliable.

Trademarked ingredient names such as ‘proXylane’ and ‘Nutrileum’ are also criticised, since the insinuation is that the product is ‘so secret and fantastic they don’t want their competitors to know what it is’.

​The article urges consumers to be more discerning with regard to terms such as ‘4 times smoother’ or ‘2mm lift’, stating that they should look for the qualification and evidence behind these claims.

Inadequate Regulation

The magazine is troubled by the way in which advertisements which have been pulled in Britain by the Advertising Standards Authority, such as that of RoC Complete Lift, are allowed to be shown in Australia, even though they may be misleading to consumers.

Also, there is an increasingly blurred line in defining a product as therapeutic or cosmetic, says the watchdog. The distinction between the two is significant because they are regulated differently.

Anything claiming to have a therapeutic effect must be either listed or registered with the Therapeutics Goods Advertising Code (TGA), spelling out specifically the kinds of claims which can be made about therapeutic goods. However, cosmetics are not considered to be therapeutic products and so do not need to fall under this check.

Choice finds this worrying because it believes that many cosmetic products do imply therapeutic qualities in their advertising, especially with increasingly popular concept of ‘cosmeceuticals’. The article asserts that anti-ageing creams and lotions are therefore benefiting from this blurred line in advertising standards, and are not being regulated adequately.

Moreover, Choice states that the Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP), who deal with consumer complaints in advertising is ‘under-resourced, overloaded and lacks effective sanctions’.

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