Ad watchdog steps in over practice’s dyslexia claims

Templeman Opticians was told to change dyslexia info on its website after a complaint

Complaints made about dyslexia and eye test information on a website belonging to Suffolk-based practice Templeman Opticians have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a specialist dyslexia teacher reported concerns as to whether claims made on the site were misleading and if they could be substantiated. The teacher also told the ASA that they understood dyslexia to be a learning difficulty not caused by visual difficulties and that diagnosis could only be made by a certified assessor.

The ASA’s complaint consisted of two elements; claims made about the causes of dyslexia and claims regarding the practice’s dyslexia testing service. The ASA said the website made claims that dyslexia was caused by visual stress and included phrases such as ‘While dyslexia has its core in a disruption of language processing, some believe that it may be a visual disturbance’, ‘if the dyslexia is caused by, or made worse, by problems with vision then yes, glasses or contact lenses would help’, and ‘dyslexia explained: dyslexia visual stress is a condition contributing to reading difficulties.’ The ASA added that the website also stated a dyslexia testing service would see a visiting optometrist perform a ‘full and comprehensive dyslexia test’ and used the description ‘dyslexia colour tests from the experts’.

Verified content

In its response to the ASA, Fred Templeman and partners, which trades as Templeman Opticians, said, to their knowledge, all of the information in their advert regarding colour testing and ‘visual perception disorder,’ which it said came under the term ‘dyslexic testing,’ was correct. The practice said the site made no misleading claims regarding colour testing of children, and they offered a home visiting service, conducted with the parents present at the time of testing. In addition, Templeman Opticians said the content on its site had been verified by the manufacturer of the colourimeter used to assess patients, which had written most of the information presented on the practice’s website.

The complaints were upheld by the ASA. It said the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) code required that prior to distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers should have documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers were likely to regard as objective and that were capable of objective substantiation.

The ruling said the website had featured various claims that suggested visual stress caused or contributed to dyslexia, along with more ambiguous claims that linked visual stress and dyslexia. The ASA said, despite the ambiguity, the context of the claims made throughout the website meant consumers would likely understand the information to mean that visual stress caused or partly caused dyslexia. It added that Templeman Opticians had not provided an explanation of the basis of the claims or any supporting evidence to show that dyslexia was caused by visual stress, therefore the practice breached two parts of the CAP code on misleading advertising and one part on substantiation.

The practice’s claims on dyslexia testing also breached CAP codes on misleading advertising and substantiation, as well as qualification and the category covering medicines, medical devices and health and beauty products. The ASA said the website included many references to ‘dyslexia tests’ with several pages directing consumers to book such tests for adults and children, with the aim of Templeman Opticians providing ‘dyslexia glasses’ with tinted lenses. ‘We considered consumers would be likely to interpret the claims to mean Templeman Opticians provided tests that could formally diagnose dyslexia, and that they offered glasses that treated or reduced the impact of dyslexia.

‘We noted that dyslexia could only be formally diagnosed through assessment by a certified assessor, who was either a psychologist specialising in specific learning difficulties or a specialist teacher or assessor, as specified by the British Dyslexia Association and also the NHS,’ noted the ASA in its ruling.

The ASA said the practice had not provided a substantive response to the issue of the complaint or substantiation that the tests were carried out by certified assessors. It ruled the adverts should not appear in the form complained about and future communication should not make claims that misleadingly suggest visual stress causes dyslexia.

Templeman Opticians told Optician it was complying with the ASA ruling and said the original content was, in part, written by the developers of the website.