(This exchange relates to this blog.)
On September 1 2014, I submitted the following to CAP (The Committees of Advertising Practice). (In what follows, I’m in red and CAP is in blue):
Dear Sir/Madam. With regard to your CAP codes, section 13 weight control and slimming, please can you provide me with the research that was undertaken, any clinical trials that were taken into account and any peer-reviewed papers that were considered when drafting these rules? Thank you
Rob replied (September 9):
On these pages you can access the review evaluation tables, which contain B/CAP’s evaluations of responses to the Code Consultation and outlines its assessment of the views received. The following is the table for section on weight control and slimming [Zoe here – You’ve just got to glance at this one].
I hope this is helpful, however if you require further info, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I wrote back by return (September 9):
Many thanks for your response.
While it is fascinating to read the various comments from organisations as disparate as ASDA, The Church of England, LighterLife and Kraft Foods, regarding the proposed (re)wording of CAP guidelines, I can see no evidence considered by CAP when the codes were originally drafted. I thus reiterate my request for evidence: the research that was undertaken, any clinical trials that were taken into account and any peer-reviewed papers that were considered when drafting these rules.
Rob replied (September 19):
Thank you for your further email.
I can confirm that the Codes were not written on the basis of a particular tranche of evidence (my emphasis), they have developed over time drawing from a variety of sources, including:
• ASA adjudications – Rules derive from ASA decisions. The evidence submitted during investigations by advertisers (which we will assess to judge whether claims made can be proven) is confidential, other than the summaries included in the text of adjudications.
• The law – Several of the rules in section 13 draw from statutory regulations
• General principles of responsibility – for instance, the targeting the obese rule is based on the rule in section 12 governing serious medical conditions.
I’m sorry I’m not able to provide you with further information or detail, but I hope this is helpful.
I can confirm that the codes were not written on the basis of a particular tranche of evidence. You couldn’t make this up. The three bullets, which try to rationalise there being no evidence are i) we make up our own case law based on our opinions in other cases ii) the actual law and iii) we have made up our own principles in other sections too.
The only relevant part of this is the (quite serious) claim that there is actual statute law behind their opinions (isn’t this like impersonating a police officer?) I wrote back (September 23):
Please can you advise which of the section 13 rules derive from The Law and/or statutory regulations and how. Also, please, what is the basis for the Rules in section 12, or are these similarly derived as you have described for section 13 rules?
Rob replied (October 3):
The rules in section 12 would have been similarly derived. My colleague Andy at the Committee of Advertising Practice might be able to assist you with any further specific questions, and he has said you can contact him directly via email (address deleted for this blog).
I replied (October 5):
Thank you for the clarification on how section 12 has been derived. Please can you answer this bit: “Please can you advise which of the section 13 rules derive from The Law and/or statutory regulations and how?”
p.s. We’ve emailed (address deleted) on 8th and 15th September and have had no reply.
It went very quiet and we thought we’d heard the last from Rob but no, he replied again on 21st October to say:
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like my colleague has received these emails – although that might be due to an error our end. Having discussed the matter with him, unfortunately I am only able at this time, and due to resources available, to reiterate the general derivation of the rules namely that they have developed over time drawing from a variety of sources including:
• ASA adjudications
• The law
• General principles of responsibility
I’m sorry we can’t be of more help at this time.
i.e. we just reiterate them; we can’t prove them.
There’s no point going back to Rob again – if he can’t find any evidence after four replies, he doesn’t have it. Remember the definition of madness: doing the same thing and expecting a different result.