13 April 2017
c/o FYI.org.nz By email only: [email address]
Dear B White
Official Information Act #16.133 – Homeopathic Products
We refer to your Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) request of 16 March 2017 for
the following information:
“1. How many complaints to the commerce commission about homeopathic products in the
last 5 years.
2. The number of these complaints which resulted in warnings, or other enforcement
3. The number of self initiated (initiated by the commission or another government agency)
investigations into homeopathic products in the last 5 years.
4. The number of these investigations which resulted in warnings, or other enforcement
5. If any guidelines exist (internally or public) in relation to the standards of evidence
required for producers of supplements and or homeopathic remedies to not be considered
by the commission as misleading in relation to claims made in selling these products.
6. If in the commissions opinion, the act of selling products by pharmacies that have no
scientific basis to their claims is misleading to consumers.”
We have structured our response in relation to your enquiries.
Search of the Commission’s database for relevant complaints
When someone contacts the Commission with a question, comment, or complaint
about a company, this information is stored in our database. For your OIA request, a
wide range of search terms were used in order to capture a complete view of
alternative health products. To determine the number of complaints the Commission
received about homeopathic products from 16 March 2012 to 16 March 2017, we
searched the Commission’s enquiries database for the following terms:
Once we had the complete picture of alternative health reports1 made in the last five
years, we were able to filter the results down to the ones relevant to your OIA
request about homeopathic products.
Since 16 March 2012, the Commission has received a total of 31 reports about
homeopathic products. The Commission has not “self-initiated” any investigations
into homeopathic products.
A full breakdown of the outcomes for the complaints can be found in the table
No. of reports
Outcome of report
Failed enforcement criteria at the initial assessment and no
further action was taken
Waiting for initial assessment decision
Information about the complaint has been passed to the
Complaint referred to MedSafe
What the above table shows is that, at present, none of the complaints have resulted
in warnings or court proceedings. When the Commission passes information to the
trader, we provide information on the nature of the report received and guidance on
the trader’s obligations under the Act. We do not investigate the matter any further
and consider the matter closed.
provides information on the Commission’s complaints and screening
A report refers to any enquiry, comment, or complaint made to the Commission.
The Commission does not have guidelines that are specific to the producers of
supplements or homeopathic remedies.
This is not to say that these traders are exempt from abiding by the Fair Trading Act
1986. All traders must comply with the Act.
10.1 Traders supplying homeopathic remedies must ensure that they do not make
misleading claims about the health benefits of their products.
10.2 The Commission’s health and nutrition claims
fact sheet covers what traders
need to know in order to comply with the Act and what consumers need to
be aware of when purchasing products.
While the Commission regulates the Fair Trading Act, there are other organisations
such as Medsafe2 and Food Standards Australia New Zealand3 that also monitor
traders who make health benefit claims about their products.
The Commission does not mandate the types of products that pharmacies can or
cannot sell. It is a breach of the law for any trader to make claims that are false,
misleading or unsubstantiated. Please refer to the Commission’s fact sheet on unsubstantiated representations
for more information.
If you are not satisfied with the Commission's response to your OIA request, section
28(3) of the OIA provides you with the right to ask an Ombudsman to investigate and
review this response.
If you have any questions in regards to this request, please do not hesitate to contact
us at [email address]
Attachment A - The Commission’s complaints and screening process
To provide background and context to our response, we provide a summary of our
screening process4 below.
The Commission’s screening process has been established to deal with the thousands
of reports received each year and to determine which reports should be investigated
Every report is initially assessed by our Enquiries Team on the basis of the
information provided. When conducting this initial assessment, the Commission
the likelihood of a breach of the relevant legislation (namely the Fair Trading
Act 1986 (the Act), Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance 2003, and the
Commerce Act 1986);
the Commission’s Enforcement Response Guidelines;5 and
the Commission’s strategic priorities and resourcing constraints.
If a report is initially considered by our Enquiries Team to meet our criteria, the
report is further considered and sent to a panel of managers for decision. The panel
is made up of five senior managers within the Commission. These managers review
each report and make decisions on how we should proceed.
Though the Commission has the power to act on reports which we consider may
breach the Act, we are not a complaint handling body and cannot take action on
every report we receive. The Commission seeks to ensure that high priority matters
are addressed first.
Following the screening process, a report will either be closed or transferred to the
investigations team. The action the Commission takes is dependent on how the
report fits with the enforcement criteria.6
Please refer to pages 10-11 of the “Competition and Consumer Investigation Guidelines – December
2015” for information on the screening process (http://www.comcom.govt.nz/the-