Calls for CWH to be fined $2 million

A public health advocate has lodged a complaint against Chemist Warehouse’s AFL Grand Final Promotion

Associate Professor Ken Harvey from Monash University has lodged a complaint with the TGA, AHPRA and ACCC regarding Chemist Warehouse’s AFL Grand Final Promotion event last week.

The promotion involved the distribution of 110,000 cushions and sample packs to patrons attending last Saturday’s event at the MCG and the AFL Grand Final Footy Show at the Rod Laver Arena.

A/Prof Harvey’s main contention is the appropriateness of the Swisse Magnesium tablets and vouchers for other complementary medicines that were included in the giveaway cushions.

He says the promotion was “irresponsible” because supplements were distributed at public venues accessed by children of all ages, and because there was no information provided on the recommended upper limit of magnesium intake (as a supplement) for young children.

A/Prof Harvey submits in his complaint that:

  • The promotion breached the object of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2015 and the spirit of s. 4(8) of the Code, which states: “An advertisement for therapeutic goods (other than therapeutic devices and sun screening preparations) must not contain an offer of a sample.”
  • The claims made on the Swisse Magnesium tablets product pack breached s. 4(1)(b), 4(2)(a), 4(2)(c) and 4(2)(f) of the Code.
  • The promotion to children breached s.4(8) of the Code.
  • The ‘buy one, get one free’ Voost exclusive offer breached s.4(8) of the Code.
  • The pharmacist owners of CWH have breached s.133 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Australian Consumer Law.

Section 133 of the National Law states that: “A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that—

  1. is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive; or
  2. offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a person to use the service or the business, unless the advertisement also states the terms and conditions of the offer; or
  3. uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; or
  4. creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment; or
  5. directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.”
Contents of the sample bag. Source: Ken Harvey.
Contents of the sample bag. Source: Ken Harvey.

“This large-scale giveaway sends a poor message,” says A/Prof Harvey.

“Should therapeutic goods be given away to anyone without assessment? How are appropriate safety controls, such as protecting children from overdose, managed in such giveaways?”

He has called on the TGA, AHPRA and ACCC to impose a penalty.

“The Swisse product retails for $20.99, 110,000 were distributed, this represents a retail value giveaway of $2.31 million. I suggest this figure would make a suitable fine for the ACCC to impose.”

In addition to the Swisse tablets and complementary medicines vouchers, the cushions distributed by Chemist Warehouse at the event also included products from Nivea, Aquiam, La Roche Posay and Swisse.

“This is unquestionably our biggest activation yet, and we are thrilled to be partnering with the AFL for the 2017 Toyota AFL Grand Final, one of Australia’s most sought-after and premiere sporting events,” said Chemist Warehouse COO Mario Tascone prior to the event.

“At Chemist Warehouse we take pride in supporting Australian sports at every level, and as the ‘House of Wellness’ we are excited to be providing everyone in attendance with wellness solutions to get them through match day!”

“The Toyota AFL Grand Final is the pinnacle event on the AFL calendar and we’re pleased that Chemist Warehouse will be adding an element of excitement to the day,” said AFL General Manager of Digital, Growth, Audience and Membership Darren Birch.

Chemist Warehouse says it will not be commenting on A/Prof Harvey’s complaints at this time.

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  1. Anne Todd

    Many years ago my pharmacy sponsored a national sporting event. Under 18 martial arts championships of some sort held in Launceston. The local organising committee were so excited to have a sponsor of any sort they just about begged us to come hand out the medals! Gave away packs with a logo’d towel, B vitamins that fiz, some strapping tape, and probably a handful of ego skin samples. Good thing this was long before the current code – samples of Fizzy vitamins for teenagers would not be acceptable now, can’t say I gave that a thought at the time.

    I remember having a significant debate about spending the money on buying & getting the hand towels embroidered. BTW I still have a dozen in the linen cupboard top quality NW Tassie made towels! but the cost fades to insignificance compared to 110000 packs for the AFL. Not that CWH would have born the cost but required the companies to come up with the products no doubt.

  2. Ron Batagol

    At a broader level re: concerns over complementary medicines, great letter to the Age by Ken earlier this week
    about what the TGA is ( or rather is not!) doing, about the monitoring of claims made for complementary medicines- (see Letter to The Age 02/10/2017: “Heed evidence”- Also at

  3. Amin-Reza Javanmard

    Don’t worry, they’ll just take it out of someone’s pay.

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