ASA wins Ribena High Court battle

Advertising watchdogs this week saw off a challenge to their credibility and authority when the High Court backed their ruling against misleading claims made for the children's drink Ribena Toothkind.

Advertising watchdogs this week saw off a challenge to their credibility and authority when the High Court backed their ruling against misleading claims made for the children's drink Ribena Toothkind.

The verdict will be a relief for the Advertising Standards Authority, which feared a defeat could undermine the self-regulatory system and lead to a flood of similar challenges that might cost thousands of pounds to defend.

The ASA was awarded costs of pounds 47,000.

SmithKline Beecham has invested pounds 19 million developing Toothkind, which was launched two years ago with a campaign by Grey in an attempt to rehabilitate the Ribena brand after criticisms of its effect on children's teeth.

SKB said it was disappointed with the decision and was considering an appeal.

But Christopher Graham, the ASA's director-general, hailed the rejection of SKB's application for a judicial review as 'a boost for the self-regulation of non-broadcast advertising'. He added: 'This should increase confidence in the ASA's independence and ability to deliver well thought-through adjudications.'

The legal battle centred on whether SKB could claim that Ribena Toothkind 'does not encourage tooth decay'.

At a hearing before Mr Justice Hunt last month, SKB claimed that Dr Steve Creanor, the senior lecturer in oral sciences at Glasgow University's dental school, had publicly criticised Tooth-kind advertising before being called to give impartial advice to the ASA and that his views had 'infected' its decision.

It also alleged that the ASA had paid insufficient regard to the British Dental Association's panel of experts who had accredited the product.

The judge rejected both suggestions. He said the claim 'does not encourage tooth decay' was an absolute one and was acknowledged to be so. 'It cannot be justified in such terms and the ASA was not only justified in coming to its conclusion but was duty bound to do so,' he added.

Neil McCrae, SKB's communications manager for consumer healthcare, said: 'We have agreed not to make this claim again, so the decision changes very little. It has more to do with the way the ASA reached its decision.'



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