Bunhill: Don't bet on dogs that eat seaweed

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The Independent Online
HOW many times can you break the rules on advertising before getting your come- uppance?

Anthony Green & Co, a small mail-order firm based in Kingston-upon-Hull, seems to be vying with Rupert Murdoch's mighty News group to find out. Barely a month goes by without one of them misleading the public.

One moment Mr Murdoch's Sun promises readers on its front page 'A free bet on the Grand National'. There was no free bet - only the chance to win one by telephoning a costly premium number.

The next, AG&Co offers 'aerobic' spectacles that it claims can bring about a dramatic improvement in vision. There is no evidence that they can.

The two companies are currently neck and neck. Each has had six complaints upheld against it over the last year by the ads watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA, rather a toothless animal funded by advertisers, can't do much more than tell them not to do it again, although last year it referred AG&Co to the Office of Fair Trading.

AG&Co, owned and run by the eponymous Anthony Green, specialises in selling 'health' products. Three weeks ago, a connected company, Sciemetics, was put into liquidation. It was involved in multi- level marketing (pyramid- selling to you and me) of health and beauty products.

The ASA says it is watching AG&Co carefully. Green, who recently got into trouble for an advertisement with the immortal headline 'Dogs Need Seaweed', insists that the ASA is making 'lunatic judgements'.

'They won't even accept that cellulite exists,' he says plaintively.