ASA Crackdown on Misleading COVID-19 Antibody Tests
We published an article in July highlighting the UK Advertising Standards Authority’s steps to remove online ads promoting untested cures and treatments for Coronavirus.
This came after complaints had been raised against companies using their websites and social media accounts to advertise unlicensed IV booster drip treatments for Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, as COVID-19 has continued to spread, so to have the companies looking to profit from the pandemic. Following on from their previous crackdown on deceptive Coronavirus treatments, the ASA has once again stepped in and ruled against a number of companies promoting misleading COVID-19 antibody tests.
The use of paid-for Facebook ads, statements on websites, and direct emails to consumers, were all tactics designed to mislead consumers with false information about COVID-19 antibody blood tests by suggesting they had 100% accuracy or could indicate long term immunity. One company even went as far as to suggest that their tests were “Public Health England and Government Approved.”
The ASA drew attention to the lack of information provided in the ads which “explained that a positive antibody result did not mean that a person was immune. We considered that consumers were likely to understand from the ads that a positive antibody test would show that they were immune to COVID-19, and would enable them to get back to work and other normal activities without the risk of contracting the virus again or transmitting it to others.”
“As of 13 July 2020, Guidance published by the Department of Health and Social Care stated that there was no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who had been proven to have had the virus and to have produced antibodies were immune. Further, it stated that receiving a positive antibody result did not mean that a person was immune, or that they couldn’t pass on the virus to others. It also did not mean that social distancing measures could be ignored.”
The ASA upheld complaints against all three companies, ruling that their ads must not appear again in the same form and that they should “ensure that they did not state or imply that a positive antibody test would show that consumers were immune to COVID-19.”
Consumers are advised to take a cautious approach to anybody claiming to provide tests with 100% accuracy.