If you’re a parent, this is worth noting the next time your child has surgery and requires pain relief afterwards…
FDA’s MedWatch Safety Alerts: February 2013
Caution Urged in Giving Kids Codeine
New actions are being taken to address a safety concern with codeine use in certain children after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids (excess tissue in the throat) to treat sleep apnea. Deaths have occurred in children who received codeine for pain relief following these surgeries.
A new boxed warning, FDA’s strongest warning, will be added to the drug label of codeine-containing products about the risk of codeine to relieve pain in children following surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. A contraindication (a formal way for FDA to make a strong recommendation against the use of a drug in certain patients) will be added to restrict codeine from being used in this setting. Other sections of the drug label will also be updated.
FDA first informed the public that it was reviewing the safety of codeine in children in August 2012 due to serious side effects and seven deaths in children who were given codeine after having their tonsils or adenoids removed. Since then, FDA’s comprehensive safety review identified six more children whose deaths between 1969 and May 1, 2012, were associated with codeine—many of them were given the drug after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids, or to treat a respiratory tract infection.
Risk: Most of these children, ages 21 months to 9 years, showed evidence of being ultra-rapid metabolizers, an inherited ability to convert codeine into life-threatening amounts of morphine in the body. High levels of morphine can lead to potentially fatal breathing difficulties.
• If your child’s health care professional prescribes codeine after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids, ask for another pain medicine.
• If codeine is prescribed for other types of pain, it is often given on an “as needed” basis. Do not give codeine to a child on a scheduled basis unless the child requires the drug, as determined by a health care professional. Do not give more than six doses per day.
• If your child shows signs of serious side effects of codeine (unusual sleepiness, confusion, or difficult or noisy breathing), stop giving codeine and immediately take your child to the emergency room or call 911.
Monday 3 December marks 20 years since the world’s first SMS was sent via Vodafone UK’s GSM network. The message was received on an Orbitel 901 handset (see picture below) and said “Merry Christmas”.
The person who sent the message was Neil Papworth. Here’s Vodacom’s interview with him, via SMS:
What was the idea behind trying to send a text message that day?
Neil> We were demonstrating that txt msging worked outside the lab.
Why were you picked to send the message?
Neil> I was one of a number of ppl testing and had done much of the installation & integration on the customer site.
How did you check the message was delivered, where was the receiving party?
Neil> Richard Jarvis was @ the Vdf [Vodafone] Christmas party. A colleague next to him was on the phone (how old-fashioned!) to a Vdf mgr next to me.
How did you come up with “Merry Christmas” on December 3rd? Did you think it would take that long to deliver?
Neil> What else would u send to a Christmas party ?
What was the moment, the atmosphere like when the message was sent and delivered?
Neil> It was a professional moment. We were under pressure 2 deliver, & we did. When it works, u just think “GR8 !”
When did you realise you were the pioneer of a majorly successful global communication tool?
Neil> Ha, well I didn’t even think about it b4 it was widely reported on the 10th anniversary. So, about 10 yrs ago !
What impact did the SMS have on your life personally?
Neil> I continued working with SMS for almost 20 yrs. Every yr I get a good 5 mins of fame, from coverage in the local paper 2 starring in a Superbowl ad!
What was the most important or most memorable SMS you have sent or received?
Neil> Announcing the births of my 3 kids 2 family & friends.
What famous person would you like to send a text message to and what would you write?
Neil> I’m a big F1 fan. I’d txt fellow Brit Jenson Button & say, “C u @ the race in Montreal. Fancy a pint ?”. U got his # ?
Who should never text you?
Neil> My kids. Until they r old enough 2 own a phone & pay the bill themselves.
Imagine you had the chance to send a text message to all mobile phones in the world – what would your message be?
Neil> Don’t txt & drive!
When did you write a real letter for the last time?
Neil> OMG. When I was @ Vodacom in Johannesburg I wrote some letters 2 my mum ! That was maybe 1994!”
SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL PROVIDES GUIDANCE FOR CLASS ACTION AGAINST BREAD CARTEL
30 November 2012
We, the litigants in the Bread Price Fixing Case, welcome the judgement of the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Appeal which overturned the August 2011 decision of the Western Cape High Court to refuse us a class certificate.
That refusal delayed our efforts to represent bread consumers in the Western Cape in a lawsuit against colluding companies Pioneer Foods, Tiger Consumer Brands and Premier Foods which were found guilty of price-fixing by the Competition Tribunal in 2007, following whistle blowing from within the sector and testimonies by civil society.
In a landmark ruling, the panel of five judges in the Supreme Court yesterday gave clear guidelines as to the requirements for class action.
This has contributed significantly to shaping the legal landscape in South Africa where the legislative framework for class action of this magnitude had not previously existed.
Our application was founded on the Section 27 right to food, which still remains the moral basis for our case. However, the court stated that class action is not confined to the Bill of Rights but extends to all constitutional rights, and as such Section 34 which enshrines the right of access to court would be the fundamental legal principle at stake. The court decided that in the Bread Price Fixing Case, the class of people that we represent would be unable to afford legal fees as individuals and as such, their right to court would be best served by a class action.
As litigants we will now prepare to take our case back to the Western Cape High Court, using the guidelines set by yesterday’s judgement. We anticipate that we will be awarded the class certificate and will proceed to file damages against the bread cartel. Any damages awarded by a court would be of direct and indirect benefit to the consumers as a whole, particularly poor people.
We appeal to all South Africans to express their solidarity with this case by coming forward to testify about the effects of high bread prices on the wellbeing of their households. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 072 66
We must understand that it is the health and wellbeing of low earners and people who use state social grants largely to buy food for their family, children who benefit from school nutrition programmes, small-scale bread distributors and other consumers who continue to be harmed by the cartels.
We call on corporate South Africa to condemn the practice of collusion as immoral and detrimental to the fabric of our society, and specifically challenge Pioneer Foods, Tiger Consumer Brands and Premier Foods to lower the price of all basic foods in their stable in the wake of this judgement.
In an environment where government is involved in the procurement of goods and services, and where the possibility for collusion and uncompetitive behaviour by companies applying for tenders is high, it is important that strong institutional checks and balances are implemented without delay. As far back as 2008, civil society made submissions to parliament who tightened anti-competitive legislation. However, we are disappointed that to this day, we do not enjoy the protection that Parliament envisaged.
In this light, we demand that the President finally announce the implementation date of the much delayed Competition Amendment Act 1 of 2009.
This Act will enforce strict penalties on the Directors of companies found guilty of collusion.
Issued by Black Sash, The Children’s Resources Centre, COSATU (Western Cape) and the National Consumer Forum and five individual bread consumers (Tasneem Bassier, Brian Mphlele, Trevor Benjamin, Nomthandazo Mvana and Farreed
Immediate recall announcement issued by SMI International:
SMI International has announced an urgent recall on all Fun Foam Foaming Bath Wash products purchased from Dischem stores countrywide following the discovery of a malfunction in the valve mechanism which has caused the product to either leak or blow over time.
As a safety precaution and measure to prevent any possible mishaps, consumers are advised to stop using the recalled products with immediate effect and return it to their nearest Dischem store. Upon presentation of the product, the consumer will receive a full reimbursement and the product will be uplifted and safely discarded from all stores.
Specific information on how the product can be identified is as follows. The Fun Foam Foaming Bath Wash is packaged in a 750ml tin and is sold in three variants, Bubblegum Blue, Cotton Candy Pink and Jelly Belly Green. These products are sold exclusively through Dischem stores nationwide.
Please address any questions or concerns you have pertaining to the recall of the Fun Foam Foaming Bath Wash to the following customer care line: 0861 666 778 as well as to report cases and receive assistance where the product has already leaked or blown after purchase.
Soon after lunchtime today, I picked up a tweet from the US safety watchdog announcing that some 4 million Bumbo baby seats were being recalled for safety reasons. 1.usa.gov/RUuqkK
Made in South Africa by the Bumbo International Trust, Bumbo seats are round moulded foam wrap-around seats that infants, unable to sit up on their own, are wedged into for full support. Costing around R350, they’re popular here and abroad. About 170,000 have been sold in South Africa; I’ve only just recently passed mine on.
But unknown to me and most South African parents is the alarming fact that there have been at least 50 “incidents” since 2007 of babies falling from these seats while on a raised surface, 19 involving skull fractures. Bumbo seats are not supposed to be used on such surfaces.
I’ve learned today that one million seats were recalled in the US in 2007 to provide further warnings against use on raised surfaces. This followed reports of 28 accidents, including three skull fractures, after the chairs had been placed on tables.
Added to the more recent 50 injuries is another 34, where the seat was on the floor or at an unknown elevation. These included two skull fractures.
It’s no wonder the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) – encouraged by concerned US consumer interest groups – has taken action.
US parents have been told to stop using the seats and to order a free repair kit, which includes a safety belt, installation instructions, proper use instructions and a new warning sticker. www.recall.BumboUSA.com
So I called Bumbo International Trust in Pretoria to ask why there’d been no announcement of the recall in SA offering the free repair kit. I was told to call the company’s media people in the US. I declined, saying I wanted details on the local recall, not the US one, which had been explained to me very effectively via the comprehensive CPSC announcement and related links.
Where was the SA recall notice, I wanted to know.
There isn’t one, Bumbo said. Why? Because the recall affects only the US and Canada.
Why? Because there haven’t been any reported injuries in SA.
Huh? So do we need to wait for a baby to crack its skull before SA infants will benefit from the same safety protection their US counterparts are entitled to?
Or, more to the point I suspect, do we need to wait for SA to properly resource its own consumer watchdog (read the National Consumer Commission) and develop a much stronger consumer culture (read organised consumer activism and an end to consumer apathy) that doesn’t tolerate companies that fail to put customer safety first.
Considering Bumbo is reportedly facing lawsuits from several US parents over this issue, it’s surprising it’s not pulling out all the stops as a matter of urgency to prevent putting local infants at risk.
I asked Bumbo to explain why it appears to value the safety of US babies over SA babies, and then tweeted my concerns, with a link to the US recall notice.
Minutes later, I got an email from “Jessica” (no surname, gmail account), apparently a media person acting for Bumbo in Washington. Attached was this statement:
“We are adding a restraint belt to enhance the safety of children using the Bumbo Baby Seat. We believe this will add an additional layer of safety for children who use the seat as it is intended: on the floor with adult supervision and never on raised surfaces. We are introducing this safety enhancement in the U.S. and Canadian markets now. We look forward to offering this safety enhancement in all countries where the Bumbo Baby Seat is sold.”
What does this mean, I emailed Jessica. Will there in fact be a parallel SA recall, as would be expected under the circumstances?
If so, when? If not, why not?
She replied, ignoring my question on a recall, but quoting Bumbo spokesman Rene Tolmay saying Bumbo owners in SA should email email@example.com to order the repair kit, free of charge.
And Tolmay admitted, contrary to previous information I was given, there had been a reported injury in SA. No details were provided.
So while millions of US parents were today warned – by their efficient safety watchdog, in co-operation with Bumbo – of the immediate risk of using the SA-made Bumbo seats, local parents were kept in the dark.
And there I was thinking it was mainly foreign-owned companies that tended to treat South Africans like dirt.
Just in from the Credit Ombud’s office… well worth noting.
Small default amounts can grow into big debts when ignored
‘Consumers often end up not paying accounts which they deem to be small amounts with the thinking that the credit provider will not pursue them for collection. This is a completely incorrect perception as leaving small amounts, with the hope of going unnoticed, can end up costing the consumer so much more,’ warns Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.
The office of the Credit Ombud recently dealt with a case where the consumer ignored an amount of R 336.20 that was due to a credit provider. His matter was handed over for collection and he ended up making payments of R 900.20, with the credit provider still showing that he had an outstanding balance of R 350.00.
Once a credit provider hands over an account to debt collectors or attorneys the collectors are entitled to add a variety of costs and fees, which include:
On top of the previously mentioned fees, interest also accumulates on the outstanding debt. All these costs added together can have the consumer left with a substantially larger amount to settle in comparison to the amount they owed at the outset.
‘Debt-stress is hard to acknowledge to oneself as well as to family members and distressed consumers sometimes think that if they ignore a problem for long enough it will go away. Instead, the problem typically escalates and even in cases of repossession of an asset, the consumer may still be left owing money,’ says credit expert Dr Penelope Hawkins of Feasibility, an economic policy and research company.
According to the National Credit Regulator’s latest statistics, the number of impaired accounts has increased to nearly 17 million in comparison to the previous quarter.
‘In addition to the consumer suffering unnecessary financial losses by having to pay over more than they owed, their credit record will also be negatively affected by having defaults or judgements taken against them,’ adds van Schalkwyk.
‘Once you see that you will not be able to honour your payments the best thing to do is to immediately contact the credit provider and make alternative arrangements with them. Doing this may just save you from being handed over for collections, because once this process is in progress, it will cost you much more to settle your debt,’ he advises.
Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud to lodge a dispute with regards to their accounts , debt counsellor or any credit bureau matters on 0861 66 2837 or www.creditombud.org.za.
When DStv decided to pull schedules from his monthly Dish magazine, it understandably caused a backlash from subscribers who rely on the guide to plan their week’s viewing. DStv has responded with a survey to poll preferences from across its customer base.
If you’re a subscriber and you haven’t already been contacted to give your vote, see the options below that are open to you. Deadline is this Friday, May 11. It’s an great opportunity for consumers to influence an aspect of the service they get from DStv; don’t let it go to waste.
Latest info from DStv:
Dish Magazine Poll – reminder to DStv subscribers
We would like to thank all our subscribers who have already participated in the poll about the DStv Dish magazine. And we wish to remind those subscribers who have not as yet indicated their choice, to please do so by Friday, 11 May 2012.
We have sent out sms’es and emails to our subscribers asking you to participate in our poll.
If you are a subscriber and have not received any of these messages and would like to indicate your preference for Dish magazine, you can participate in the poll in one of two ways. You can log on to DStv.com/DishPoll. Alternatively, you can participate through sms by sending your smartcard number with your choice of A, B or C below to 30622:
A. I would prefer to receive the new lifestyle Dish magazine which does NOT have programme schedules
B. I would prefer to receive a Dish magazine which includes the programme schedules
C. I don’t want to receive Dish magazine
We urge you not to miss out on this opportunity to make your choice. If you do not respond, we will assume that you do not want a Dish magazine at all.
MultiChoice will be making a further announcement about the Dish magazine mid May, once the results of the poll have been analysed.
For those subscribers who have no email or sms registered with us, we are sending postcards in the mail. We have also been contacting subscribers over the age of 80 telephonically to assist them to indicate their choice via telephone.
Product recalls and how they’re handled in SA have long bothered me. I’ve written often (and will continue to do so) about companies that would rather hide defects/problems than protect consumers by being transparent about potential risks to consumers.
Comprehensive draft regulations compiled by the National Consumer Commission have yet to be finalised but when they are, they’ll set very stringent guidelines on how recalls will be conducted going forward. Until then, it’s up to individual companies to act responsibly and in the interests of consumers. Some are stepping up to the plate, others not.
One retailer that is doing more than most on this score is Woolworths and it deserves recognition for this. As I said at the time, its handling of the hot water bottle recall last year was impressive. The bottles, covered in knit and fleece, were identified as having a potential leak along the seam. The recall was prompted by several complaints, including from a customer who had scalded her leg.
Besides press releases, website, Facebook and Twitter notices, and SMS contact with account holders who’d bought the product, Woolworths put up large and highly visible signs at till points. The recall info would have been hard to miss.
But in case it was, Woolworths this week issued a reminder to customers who hadn’t yet returned the product to do so as soon as possible. Here’s what it sent out:
“Last September Woolworths recalled hot water bottles sold since April 2011 due to safety concerns.
With winter fast approaching, we’re reminding customers who bought hot water bottles last year to return the bottles to their nearest Woolworths clothing store for a full refund.
The recall applies to hot water bottles with style numbers 501120262, 501120270 and 501120254, barcodes 600910139792, 6009101397440, and 6009101147731.
“The safety of our customers is of utmost importance. This is simply a reminder to customers to return their bottles. We know that South Africans trust Woolworths for quality and would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused,” says Woolworths Director of Clothing and General Merchandise, Brett Kaplan.
Nice one, Woolworths. Keep it up.
I returned to work today after the wonderful Easter break to be greeted by the shocking news of the National Consumer Tribunal’s judgment http://bit.ly/I2WckF on the City of Johannesburg’s billing crisis.
The Tribunal found in favour of the City and cancelled the National Consumer Commission’s 45 compliance notices against it for failing to resolve consumers’ billing disputes.
The City had objected to the notices, arguing due process was not followed and each complaint had not been investigated before the NCC issued its compliance notices.
The Tribunal quoted the NCC as saying that due to the volume of complaints it hadn’t been practical or possible to investigate each billing complaint. It issued the notices as a last resort after the City allegedly failed to respond timeously after agreeing to resolve individual complaints. The NCC believed the CoJ was not co-operating and said consumers were growing impatient.
In its 44-page judgment the Tribunal said that the fact that the NCC knew that the City was experiencing difficulties with billing and consumers were complaining did not mean is was entitled to “cut corners”. It quoted from the recent Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in Democratic Alliance v The President of the RSA & others which dealt with the right of the President Zuma to appoint the National Director of Public Prosecutions:
”To ensure a functional, accountable constitutional democracy the drafters of our Constitution placed limits on the exercise of power. Institutions and office bearers must work within the law and must be accountable. Put simply, ours is a government of laws and not of men or women“.
My question now is where this leaves the downtrodden consumer? If the Tribunal wants to talk constitutional rights in defending its ruling, what about a consumer’s constitutional right to a functional, accountable municipality? What about muncipal officials working within the law? Or are the rights of institutions and office bearers more important than those of the ordinary citizen?
I get that procedure needs to be followed. I get that corners shouldn’t be cut. But I don’t see how the rights of a powerful – and clearly incompetent - institution like the CoJ trumps the rights of the vulnerable. Isn’t the CoJ there to serve the people?
I also think it’s disingenous to suggest an NCC investigation of each and every complaint around billing is required to detect wrongdoing. The fact there’s a billing crisis and that it’s widespread and has affected thousands of consumers is not, and has never been, in dispute.
It’s also rich to suggest an under-resourced, under-funded entity like the NCC should take on the added (and arguably not necessary) burden of individual investigations following mass complaints into the same widespread problem.
The Joburg Advocacy Group, which represents many of the city’s billing crisis victims, is equally appalled, saying in a statement today http://on.fb.me/Acnslt that it’s “ironic” that the tribunal cites the rule of law and SA’s constitutional democracy when ruling in favour of the city’s application.
“This especially as there is substantial evidence to suggest that the City of Joburg itself is in violation of S 33 of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees just administrative action, and, indeed, of many of the provisions laid out in such legislation as Municipal Systems Act,” the group said.
I doubt the NCC has the resources to have this Tribunal finding reviewed. So the City will get away with gross neglect, incompetence and abuse of the very people who fund it. So much for a “functional, accountable constitutional democracy”.
An interesting presser popped up in my mail box today regards the controversial Red Bull Jesus ad, suggesting that SA youth are not as liberal in their views as advertisers and marketers generally assume.
Of course, it’s based on the response of a single survey which doesn’t represent the country’s youth market … but it still offers good insight into how youngsters respond to advertising campaigns. And it shows the attitudes and sensitivities of young South Africans are not always what we would expect. It’s something all of us, but particularly advertisers and marketers, should bear in mind.
“SA youth agree with Red Bull Ad retraction
A survey by Pondering Panda, a consumer insights company specialising in fast turnaround research, suggests that South African youths are surprisingly not as tolerant as one would expect. Following the retraction of a Red Bull advert from television networks in South Africa depicting Jesus walking on water; the company polled users of Mxit, Africa’s biggest social network, to gauge their reaction.
The poll posed the question: “Do you think it was right for the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) to remove the advert from TV networks?”
Of the 1,661 users who responded to the poll in the first day the poll was created, 59% of users felt that retracting the Red Bull advert was the right thing to do. 27% said the advert should have been allowed to continue and 14% had no strong opinion on the advert.
The contentious advert suggests that it was the Red Bull energy drink which caused Jesus to walk on water.
Shirley Wakefield, CEO of Pondering Panda, commented saying, “It is fascinating that almost 60% of the youth market surveyed agreed with the decision to retract the advert. There is a common belief that the youth market hold more liberal views and advertisers perhaps need to take note of these unexpected results.”
To be fair to Red Bull, it pulled the ad off air before the ASA made an approach following consumer complaints. The ad was flighted on TV only once before complaints led it to make the decision to discontinue the ad.
The ASA has since ruled on the matter. In a nutshell, it ruled in favour of the complainants’ view that the ad was offensive to Christians and imposed a sanction on Red Bull. But the sanction is suspended for six months, with conditions. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of the ASA’s decision, see below for full ruling.
Red Bull / F Meredith & Others / 19821
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
FRANCESCA MEREDITH FRANCOIS GROBLER ANDREA REINECKE RICHARDT VENTER RHONDA CROUSE IAN KITNEY SARAH M M LOMBARD L D CARIS IAN WILLIAM FORSTER LINDA ROBINSON MIQUETTE CAALSEN MARCELLE SCHLEBUSCH MARK RUSSELL GUY DENNISON
MERLE TOWNSEND MATTHY Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Red Bull Holdings South Africa (Pty) Ltd Respondent
Consumer complaints were lodged against a Red Bull television commercial promoting its Red Bull energy drink. The commercial was flighted, inter alia, on MNet and e.tv on Monday, 12 March 2012.
The animated commercial depicts Jesus fishing from a small boat with two other bearded, unnamed characters. Jesus comments that he is bored, steps out of the boat and starts walking on water. The one character states “Jesus! Wait there … wow, how did you do that?” (when he sees Jesus walking on water). Jesus asks “What do you mean?” The man refers to “… the walking on water thing?”, to which the other character states “uh, I believe he drank a Red Bull my china … gives him wings, not so?”. Jesus then clarifies “Not at all, it’s got nothing to do with Red Bull”, to which the second character shouts “Mazel tov! It’s a miracle!” Jesus then explains that its “No miracle” and that he “just need[s] to know where [he] placed the stones”.
As he says this, stones are seen protruding from the water and Jesus is shown hopping over them. He nearly slips on one and exclaims “Jesus!”
The complainant submitted, in essence, that:
The commercial is offensive as it makes a mockery of Jesus Christ by portraying Him in a blasphemous manner. Peripheral arguments to the allegation of offence relate to the fact that the commercial implies that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was all a sham.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is alive and sitting at the right hand of God and as such His express permission should have been obtained before being featured in the commercial (in accordance with certain provisions of the Code).
The advertiser should apologise publicly and should be fined as well to indicate the level of offence caused.
Creates a bad example for children.
Its misleading as it creates an impression that the product existed during the time that Jesus Christ lived.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE In light of the complaints the following clauses of the Code were considered
. Section II, Clause 1 – Offensive advertising
. Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
. Section II, Clause 11 – Protection of privacy and exploitation of the individual
. Section II, Clause 14 – Children
. Procedural Guide, Clause 14 – Sanctions
The respondent submitted, inter alia, that:
Even prior to receiving any communication from the ASA, it made the unilateral decision to cease running the commercial across all television and online mediums as a result of complaints received. The commercial was only flighted for one night and will not air again.
While it does not consider to have breached the Code (for the reasons below), it respects the views and opinions of the public and it does not intend causing offence to the groups that complained.
Its commercials are at all times animated and created for their humour and are not intended to be taken seriously or to cause offence. This is not unlike other cartoon shows (for example The Simpsons) where material is not intended to be taken literally.
The commercial does not mislead the consumer with respect to the product.
The use of the cartoon medium communicates to the viewer that this commercial is not intended to depict a real life scenario.
It does not direct its marketing to children. The commercial was aired in the evening. In addition, as stated on the product itself, it is not made to be consumed by children. Given the light-hearted nature of the commercial, the respondent does not believe it to be taken seriously.
It does do not see any scope for consideration of sanctions as it has already withdrawn the commercial and undertaken not to air it again in future. Furthermore, it apologises to those members of the public for any offence caused which was wholly unintended.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by all the parties.
In terms of the Code and a long-standing principle held in previous rulings, the Directorate has discretion in terms of deciding whether or not an unequivocal undertaking to remove or amend the advertising complained of is an adequate resolution to the matter. When such undertakings are accepted (which is often the case), it will be done because the undertaking addresses the concerns raised in the complaint/s.
Over the years, however, there have been instances where the Directorate did not believe a mere withdrawal of the advertising was sufficient. This will usually be in instances where, for example, the undertaking is merely given in an attempt to avoid sanctions, or where the proposed amendments would not adequately address the concerns (refer Mavericks / FM Boulle and Another /
11224 (4 August 2008) for example).
In addition to this, if the Directorate were satisfied that a respondent should reasonably have known its advertising was problematic / deceptive / offensive and still persisted with it, this could be seen as deliberate intent for which a mere withdrawal would not necessarily be adequate.
For the reasons set out more fully below, the Directorate is not satisfied that the withdrawal of the commercial is sufficient and adequately addresses the concerns raised. The respondent’s undertaking is therefore not accepted as a final resolution.
The ASA acknowledges that South Africa is a multi-cultural society and recognizes that it is important to ensure that all religious faiths and beliefs, no matter how large or small the communities that practice them, are treated with the same consideration and respect. A guiding principle has always been that advertising that attacks, ridicules or belittles a basic tenet of any belief would be problematic (refer Post Office / TT Mahanyele /
18484 (19 October 2011), Jews for Jesus / UOS / 9141 (12 July 2007), and the ruling of the Advertising Standards Committee in Nandos / The International Society of Krishna Consciousness / B Singh / N Singh / (19 September 2003) for examples).
Clause 1 of Section II states, inter alia, that “No advertising may offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public or sectoral values and sensitivities, unless the advertising is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”.
The commercial depicts an animated Jesus, walking on water. Eventually it is apparent that he is not walking on water but on stepping stones. There can be no doubt that this is a direct reference to what is regarded as one of Jesus’ miracles – walking on water.
In Mavericks / FM Boulle and Another / 11224 (4 August 2008), the Directorate considered a complaint against an advertisement that featured an image of a woman who appeared to be in prayer. She was shown holding a set of Rosary beads with a halo above her head. The payoff line said “BELIEVE”.
The complainant submitted that the advertisement was offensive as it featured symbols which were sacred to Christians to promote a service (a strip club) that Christianity is opposed to. The Directorate stated:
“While the Directorate must be careful not to sanctify religion to a point that advertisers cannot refer to it, it must take cognisance of the manner in which religious symbols are referred to.”
The Directorate upheld the complaint and rejected the respondent’s proposal of removing the halo and rosary beads. It pointed out that, even if these elements were removed, the white dove present in the advertisement was commonly associated with Christian symbolism. It added that doves symbolised the Third person of the Trinity and were featured in Christian art which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
In GHD Hair / LJ Van Zyl / 10419 (21 May 2008), the Directorate considered a complaint against a print advertisement that featured an image of a woman with closed eyes, holding Rosary beads in her hands. The Afrikaans wording alongside (translated for the sake of convenience) stated “May my luscious locks wrap every man on earth around my little finger.” The pay-off line “Thy will be done” (“U wil geskied”) was also used. The complainant submitted that the tagline used in this context was offensive. The Directorate upheld the complaint on the basis that the Lords Prayer was used for the sake of vanity and trivialised.
A similar approach can be applied to the matter at hand.
The respondent submitted that the use of the cartoon medium communicates to the viewer that this commercial is not intended to depict a real life scenario. Encarta Dictionary English (UK)’s defines Jesus Christ, inter alia, as “A Jewish religious teacher…His life and teachings form the basis of Christianity”. While the Directorate is mindful of the fact that the commercial is intended to be light-hearted, comical and harmless, this does not remove the direct reference, and ultimately trivialisation of the miracle of Jesus walking on water.
In doing so, the commercial not only makes fun of a basic event of the Christian religion, but uses Jesus Christ who is the central figure of this religion, in a comical situation and in a way that trivialised all events and teachings surrounding Jesus and the miracles he performed. This is something that would likely offend Christians in the same manner as it offended the complainants, and more importantly something that the respondent should reasonably have foreseen.
Based on the above the commercial is in contravention of Clause 1 of Section II of the Code. Given that the respondent has already withdrawn the commercial with permanent effect, the only remaining consideration is whether or not sanctions are appropriate.
In Chicken Licken / Kentucky Fried Chicken (1 September 2003), where a similar issue regarding blatant disregard of the spirit and the letter of the Code was considered, the advertising industry tribunal held that
“.the Tribunal concurred that the crafting of the advertisement was entirely deliberate. The character representing Colonel Saunders was virtually identical to the animated version used as KFC’s brand icon and the references to Finger Licken and the secret recipe were deliberately crafted.
The iconic nature of the figure is not in doubt . Consequently, the following sanctions are imposed on Chicken Licken by the Tribunal: the advertisement is to be withdrawn in its current format and Chicken Licken is also ordered to publish a summarised version of the ruling as prepared by the ASA in the medium in which the advertising complained of appeared. The costs of such publication will be for the account of Chicken Licken in terms of Clause 14.5 (sanctions) in the Procedural Guide.”
The Directorate is of the view that the same sanction applies to the matter at hand as the respondent deliberately portrayed Jesus, who is a central figure of the Christian religion in a comical and disrespectful manner.
The details of the sanction will be included below for future reference.
However, the Directorate specifically notes that the respondent does not have a pattern of disregard, and has not been before the ASA in recent years. Given this, the sanction detailed below is suspended for a period of six months from the date of this ruling.
Should an adverse ruling be made against the respondent in this suspension period, the sanction detailed below will automatically be invoked.
The complaints are therefore upheld, and the sanction imposed is suspended for six months from the date of this ruling, on condition that no further adverse rulings are made against the respondent.
Details of the sanction to be suspended
The respondent is ordered to flight the following summarised version of the ruling as a forty-five second television commercial in the medium in which the advertising complained of appeared and for the same frequency as per the booking schedule used when the commercial was placed. All relevant costs will be for the account of the respondent in terms of Clause 14.5
(Sanctions) of the Procedural Guide. The summarised ruling is to read as follows, and is to be read aloud during the statement, as well as to appear on-screen during the flighting/s:
“The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa recently ruled that Red Bull had breached the Code of Advertising Practice because of the offensive manner in which it portrayed Jesus Christ.
Red Bull’s withdrawal of the commercial was not seen as an adequate resolution, and the Authority pointed out that the commercial not only made fun of a basic tenet of the Christian religion, but referred to and utilised Jesus in a way that trivialised all events and teachings surrounding him.
The Authority felt that Red Bull could reasonably have foreseen the likelihood of offence.
The objections were upheld, and Red Bull instructed to prepare and flight this announcement at its own costs.
The Advertising Standards Authority. Protecting Your Standards”.
The respondent is also reminded of the provisions of Clause 14.9 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively deems any advertising that “is calculated to, or has the effect of undermining” a ruling of the ASA as a contravention of the Code.