The commission began investigating Baa Baa Beads after receiving a complaint about its Baltic amber necklaces for babies. The company also sells necklaces for adults and products intended to deter fleas from cats and dogs.
Its website made claims about the properties of its necklaces which the commission felt were at risk of being unsubstantiated. Baa Baa Beads submitted research and articles to the commission to support its claims, but the commission believes there was not enough “independent and credible” scientific evidence included, saying the material provided focused primarily on Baltic amber’s origin, makeup and historical use by ancient people.
The claims investigated by the commission included:
- “For generations it is said when worn on the skin, the amber warms and releases the oil that helps soothes and relieves symptoms”;
- “Recent scientific research has also proved that succinic acid has a very positive influence on the human organism”;
- Succinic acid “strengthens the body, improves immunity”; and
- Succinic acid has been “proven” to be “the equal or better of many commercial drugs and is significantly less expensive.”
Baa Baa Beads’ website has been amended. It now says Baltic amber has been reported to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties when worn, but no scientific studies support these claims.
Last year, Baa Baa Beads published a defiant message on its Facebook page when the new rules around unsubstantiated representations came into effect.
Bestselling sleep remedy company SleepDrops founder Kirsten Taylor, who is a naturopath, nutritionist and medical herbalist, has also pushed back against the rules. In SleepDrops’ FAQ section online, she says:
“Legally (due to NZ med safe regulations) I am not allowed to go into any detail at all about what results people can expect from my SleepDrops but the name of the product pretty much covers it.”
Commissioner Anna Rawlings says it’s fine for businesses to promote the benefits of their products and services, but they need to be able to prove their claims at the time they make them. Consumers should be able to rely on sellers’ claims so that they can make informed purchasing decisions, she says.
“Whether the claim is express or implied, businesses should only make claims based upon facts, figures and credible sources of information that support their accuracy,” Rawlings says. “Traders cannot simply rely on general information they find in books and online.”
The Commerce Commission has detailed information on how businesses can avoid falling foul of the new rules. Its tips for businesses are:
- Don’t make claims that you don’t have reasonable grounds for believing to be true.
- Rely on facts, figures and credible sources of information, not guesses and unsupported opinions.
- Keep documentation or other information that you have gathered in the process of sourcing or researching a good or service.
- You must have reasonable grounds for claims at the time they are made, substantiating a claim after it was made may not get you off the hook.