|Not a member? Sign up now!|
A Tauranga based couple specialising in homoeopathic remedies have pleaded guilty to 19 charges of breaching the Fair Trading Act for making misleading representations about their qualifications and their ability to provide cures or prevent diseases. They have been penalised a total of $23,400 by way of fines and costs awards in the Tauranga District Court.
The prosecution was brought by the Commerce Commission after an investigation of numerous claims made by Ingrid and John Godwin through their business, Healing World. The Commission’s investigation was prompted after complaints were received about the Healing World website and an advertorial which ran in the Weekend Sun newspaper in 2005.
The Godwins represented that they had cures for, or could protect against, diseases which currently have no known cure, including bird flu, SARS and herpes. In promoting their remedy for herpes, the Godwins indicated that it was “deemed safe for use by the general public therefore they are available with or without Practitioner advice”. In fact, medical advice is required for the containment of the symptoms of herpes and prevention of infection to others.
The Godwins were also penalised for misleading the public about their qualifications. Ingrid Godwin, although listed on the nursing register, due to advertising her nursing qualification with the services offered by Healing World, is required to hold an Annual Practicing Certificate. She has not held this certificate since 1996. John Godwin claimed that he was endorsed by the New Zealand Institute of Isopathic Medicine Inc, an organisation created by Godwin himself. This organisation was struck off the Companies Office register in 2004.
“It is not the Commission’s role to decide on the efficacy of alternative health practices such as homoeopathy. However alternative medicine providers have the same obligations under the Fair Trading Act as traditional medical practitioners,” said Adrian Sparrow, Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading. “Any claims made must be accurate and not mislead consumers. False claims about the ability to cure or prevent diseases can not only damage the reputation of the alternative health industry, but also put consumers’ health at risk when they put their trust in products with false or exaggerated claims.”
In sentencing, Judge Ingram noted that it is notorious public knowledge that that there is no cure for conditions such as bird flu, SARS, smallpox and herpes. He also noted the Godwins provided no evidence to the Court about the efficacy of their remedies.
Breakdown of fines and charges. The Godwins were fined a total of $11,450 and have been ordered to pay court costs of $1,950. The Judge has also ordered them to pay the Commission costs of $10,000 - $5,000 each. The Judge noted that the costs in this case formed part of the penalty he imposed.
The Fair Trading Act. Court penalties for breaching the Fair Trading Act can include fines of up to $200,000 for a company and $60,000 for an individual. Only the courts can decide if a representation has breached the Act.
A hoax cure for a hoax disease.