Couple fined for selling birdflu 'cure'

Last updated 13:04 15/01/2009

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A Tauranga couple who sold homeopathic remedies claiming to cure birdflu, herpes and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) have been convicted of breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Ingrid and John Godwin changed pleas to guilty in Tauranga District Court this week on 19 charges of breaching the Act for making misleading representations about their qualifications and their ability to provide cures or prevent diseases.

Judge Thomas Ingram ordered the couple to pay fines and court costs totalling $23,400.

The Godwins said through their business, Healing World, they had cures for, or could protect people against, diseases which currently have no known cure, including birdflu, Sars and herpes.

They said their herpes remedy was "deemed safe for use by the general public therefore they are available with or without Practitioner advice".

However, medical advice was required to contain it and prevent infection to others.

They also misled the public about their qualifications.

Ingrid Godwin, who stated she was a qualified nurse, was listed on the nursing register but had not held an annual practising certificate since 1996.

John Godwin claimed that he was endorsed by the New Zealand Institute of Isopathic Medicine Inc.

But this was an organisation he himself created, which had been struck off the Companies Office register in 2004.

Judge Ingram said during sentencing it was notorious public knowledge there was no cure for conditions such as birdflu, Sars, smallpox and herpes.

The Godwins had provided no evidence to the court about the efficacy of their remedies, he said.

The Commerce Commission laid the charges after investigating complaints about the Healing World website and an advertorial which ran in a newspaper in 2005.

Commission director of fair trading Adrian Sparrow said alternative medicine providers had the same obligations under the Fair Trading Act as traditional medical practitioners.

"Any claims made must be accurate and not mislead consumers.

"False claims about the ability to cure or prevent diseases can not only damage the reputation of the alternative health industry, but also put consumers' health at risk when they put their trust in products with false or exaggerated claims."

- NZPA

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