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16 December 2022

Hair loss company couldn’t back up its treatment claims

Not every marketing claim you hear is true.

Ashley & Martin has been fined $367,500 for not being able to back up the claim its hair loss treatment had a 98% success rate.

Hair loss

The Australian company made the claim on its website and in New Zealand radio and TV advertising between November 2016 and May 2021.

The Commerce Commission brought the charges under the Fair Trading Act. The Commission’s general manager of trading, Vanessa Horne, said people are entitled to assume claims made by companies can be backed up, especially when they are related to medical products.

“A claim of 98% success rate could have the potential to sway consumers into making a significant health and financial decision,” Horne said.

The average cost of a one-year treatment programme at Ashley & Martin ranges from $3000 to $5000.

Ashley & Martin’s proof of the claimed success rate was a customer satisfaction survey of 109 customers from 2007 – 15 years ago – and clinical trial results of 10 customers from 1999 – more than 20 years ago.

“The study and survey were based on extremely small sample sizes relative to Ashley & Martin’s customer base,” Horne said.

When we looked into balding treatments earlier this year, dermatologists told us people should be wary of marketing claims.

Dr Bruce Taylor, a Wellington dermatologist, said people who came to him for help with hair loss had usually been to a clinic and hadn’t seen good results. He cautioned against giving much attention to ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos.

“If it’s taken from the right angle or combed the right way, we can do anything.”

Dr Amanda Oakley, a dermatologist at Waikato Hospital, said people losing their hair “have been the target of marketing cures for baldness for millennia”.

She said it’s important to remember genetic hair loss cannot be cured. Treatments can stop hair from falling out and can regrow it, but such treatments must continue lifelong.

So, what works and what are you better to pass on? See our article on Balding Treatments.

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