'Moon man' uses quake prediction to beat charge

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014
Ken Ring
KEN RING: Caused nationwide controversy when he predicted a massive quake would take place in Christchurch on March 20.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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"Moon man" Ken Ring has used his claimed Christchurch earthquake predictions to defeat an Advertising Standards Authority complaint over his weather forecasting website.

Ring sells long-range weather projections on his website and advertises them by saying he differs from meteorologists, who cannot make long-range predictions.

Wellington geochemist Douglas Sheppard complained about the site to the Advertising Standards Authority, which rules on the acceptability of ads.

Ring, Sheppard said, "is quite unable to make accurate long range predictions - this has been demonstrated many times".

On the grounds of social responsibility and truthfulness, Sheppard said the ads failed to meet the ASA standard.

In response, Ring gave the ASA four examples of accurate long-range forecasts. Among them was a tweet he said he sent on September 7, 2010 - "more big earthquakes in 6 months time" - which he said predicted the earthquakes of February 22 and March 20, 2014.

He also pointed to an item on his website from February 14, 2011, which predicted a big earthquake in Christchurch between February 15 and 25.

Other examples included predictions of lamb deaths in the cold spring of 2013, drought in the summer of 2012-13, and predictions of scorching heat for Ireland.

He told the ASA he did not claim 100 per cent accuracy "only . . . 80 to 85 per cent. But I am obviously able to make accurate predictions, so the complainant's claim that I am ‘quite unable to make accurate long-range predictions' is false."

Ring asked the ASA if fishing columns could be banned if people didn't catch a fish, or horoscopes banned because unexpected inheritances and tall dark strangers failed to materialise.

In ruling in favour of Ring, the ASA said it was not "an arbiter of scientific fact". Instead, its role was to consider the ads from the perspective of the likely audience and decide whether claims were substantiated by the advertiser.

It said Ring's website carried a disclaimer that his information was "opinion-based".

The ASA said the likely "consumer take-out" from Ring's advertisement was that he could make opinion-based weather predictions, which were "often but not always accurate", and this was clear to consumers.

Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.

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