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*VIDEO* Can testimonials include therapeutic claims? 

 June 17, 2019

By  Jennifer - Skincare Business Foundations

If you’re relatively new to the industry, you might be wondering why therapeutic claims are relevant – because you make cosmetics, right?

But the line between cosmetic and therapeutic claims can be difficult to navigate, and it’s easy to make non-compliant claims without even realising it.

In response to a discussion on Natural Skincare Makers Australia, I made a short video that answers the question “can customer testimonials include therapeutic claims?”

Here’s a summary of the video and FAQs from the discussion:

Can customer testimonials and reviews on my website or social media include therapeutic claims?
The answer to this is 100% NO.

Why not? The customer is making the claim, not my business…
Customer testimonials and reviews are classified as advertising. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) makes this clear in section 17 of Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018 – “Testimonials are advertisements themselves”. It’s illegal to advertise products as having a therapeutic benefit unless they’re listed or registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). 

But the testimonial doesn’t specifically say that it healed anything… so why is it a therapeutic claim?
If a consumer thinks a cosmetic product would have a therapeutic benefit based on the way it is advertised, e.g. naming a skin condition and providing before and after photos, this would be considered a therapeutic claim (which would be illegal if the product isn’t listed or registered on the ARTG). This is regardless of whether the business has intentionally promoted the product this way or not. Also, just because the word ‘heal’ hasn’t been used, doesn’t mean there’s no implication it’s had a therapeutic effect, or that the consumer won’t think it will.

How do you know all this?
I’ve been to TGA workshops where it’s been discussed, I’ve studied it in a Certificate of Cosmetic Regulatory Essentials and I’ve read the TGA regulations at length.

What should I do if I have testimonials or reviews with therapeutic claims on my website or social media?
Well, this is really up to you – but if you want to be compliant, the TGA expects you to remove them where you can: “Advertisers should monitor testimonials and remove non-compliant testimonials“.

What if it’s on someone else’s website or social media account?
That’s a bit different. The TGA states “Advertisers are responsible for ensuring the compliance of any testimonials that are publicly posted by third parties to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media accounts and blogs where the advertiser has control of the content.

What can I do if I see illegal therapeutic claims from other businesses?
You could consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Contact the business and let them know – although in my experience, it may not make much of a difference.
  2. Report them to the TGA – it’s in the best interests of consumers and businesses who have done the right thing and listed their therapeutic products with the TGA.
  3. Focus on making compliant cosmetic claims for your own products – e.g. surface-level claims that don’t mention relieving any conditions or physiological changes. Just because they are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

I know I must sound like a broken record when it comes to therapeutic claims. But I’m passionate about educating skincare makers about what you can and can’t say – for the benefit of yourself and your customers.

Hopefully you’ve learnt something today. If you want to feel confident you’re not making therapeutic claims (or aren’t even sure what the heck a therapeutic claim is), my guide to making compliant cosmetic claims will be a godsend (and it’s only $29).

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jennifer - cosmetic regulatory consultant for Australian skincare brands. After running my own skincare business, and having a 10-year+ corporate background in risk management, auditing and compliance, I decided to combine my business know-how and industry knowledge to help others build a solid business foundation. Since 2018, I've been supporting skincare brand owners with friendly expert advice and time-saving regulatory guides. And my signature course on how to start a skincare brand in Australia.

Jennifer - Skincare Business Foundations

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