Saturday, November 23, 2019


Dear TV Watchers,
Dana Lebowitz of ADCOCO
          Are you being deceived by some of the advertisers on South Africa’s DStv?
          I concede that it can’t be expected to investigate every advertisement that is submitted, but it would surely be in its own interests to get those making outlandish claims to substantiate them before their ads are accepted.
          Carrying ones that are suspect casts doubt on the validity of DStv’s ads in general.
          As I expected it does not “judge the authenticity of advertiser’s claims.” This is what Fahmeeda Cassim-Surtee CEO of DStv’s Media Sales told me.
          They leave it to viewers to root out their advertising bad eggs by complaining to the Adverting Regulatory Board.
          Here are a couple of the most glaring examples where the advertiser can’t even back up it own claims with solid proof, so you know what that means – you are being conned.
Alpecin German Engineering for your hair: The manufacturers of this shampoo have been denigrating German Engineering with their advertisement for this shampoo, because this is far from being a hair raising story.
          Its TV ads were banned in Britain but that hasn’t stopped it’s promoters from telling the same lie half a world away to Africans on DStv.
          Alpecin is a caffeine shampoo produced by Dr Kurt Wolff’s family business GmbH & Co in Germany and distributed in South Africa by its agent ACDOCO.
          On DStv viewers were told: "If hair growth is waning more and more men choose the caffeine based shampoo by Alpecin. During hair washing the highly dosed Alpecin penetrates the hair follicle."
          Dana Lebowitz is ACDOCO’s Marketing Manager in South Africa, and as such I thought she would immediately be able to give me the evidence to substantiate the claims being made for this shampoo. So I put three questions to her.
          I asked for independent scientific evidence that Alpecin reduced hair loss and that it penetrated the hair follicle. I also wanted to know if the veracity of the claims being made for this shampoo in advertisements had ever been questioned anywhere in the world.
          She replied promptly saying that she had sent my questions to the manufacturer in Germany for “further information.”
          Surely when her firm agreed to market this shampoo it would have cleared up the points I was raising before it became an Alpecin distributor. I concluded she was just stringing me along. 
          I then asked when she expected to hear from Germany. On  November 8 I sent a third email telling her that if I did not hear from her by 11 November I would assume that neither her firm nor the German manufacturers had any independent proof that this shampoo reduced hair loss or that it penetrated hair follicles.
          She replied the same day with her idea of proof which was a list of eight names of people she claimed had done “scientific studies.” She gave no further details.
          The Wall Street Journal reported that this shampoo was tested in studies published in 2010 and 2013 in the Journal of Applied Cosmetology. It quoted dermatologist Leonard Celleno, one of those named in Leibovitz’s list, as saying: “There was a little bit of hair regrowth seen in the studies, but it does not mean your hair will grow like you were 20 years old.” 
          He is a researcher at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Significantly the studies were funded by the manufacturer, the paper revealed.
          Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stated: "Taking into account the body of evidence, we considered that we had not seen any studies of the actual product as used by consumers on their scalp using an accurate analysis of hair growth, in a well-designed and well-conducted trial."
          It didn't think much of the fact that some results were measured by a "hair pull" test. 
           Alpecin's case was so flimsy that the ASA banned it's makers from saying it can “help to reduce hair loss” in any adverts.  It ruled last year that this “had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.”
          So much for all the “scientific studies” Dana Liebowitz referred me to.
Aquafresh Toothpaste: This is made and marketed in South Africa by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a giant British multinational, pharmaceutical company.
          Its goal, it claims, “Is to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and trusted healthcare companies.
          “Our values are Patient focus, Transparency, Respect, Integrity.
          “Everyone at GSK is focused on 3 priorities – Innovation, Performance, Trust” (Highlights are mine).
          This is what it tells us on its website. Now see how these all encompassing brags match up to my experience.
          Its Aquafresh ads that have appeared on DStv show a superman, cartoon like character in the red, white and blue stripes that are characteristic of this brand of toothpaste. He taps the side of a large tooth and tells us that he can “strengthen the enamel.”
          The ad appeared on Channel 135 on 17 October 2019 and on numerous other occasions.
          So I set out to see if GSK has any independent scientific evidence to back this unbelievable claim only to find that its public relations at its Johannesburg office was absolutely appalling. Over a period of perhaps three weeks I phoned almost every day in an effort to speak to the person in charge of the South African operation. 
          The woman on the switchboard assured me that Kimberley Hunt headed that office although Google gives the impression she is in America. Inappropriately in this case her title is Vice President, Commercial Excellence.

One of the Aquafresh ads
          I could only get Kimberley’s email address, I was told, by going through her PA Marie Visser. While trying to contact the elusive Marie I was repeatedly put through to her extension only to get an automatic reply. Leaving a message to return my calls got me nowhere and nor did I hear from her after I had given my contact details to the switchboard operator, who assured me that Marie would get back to me.
          Is this the PERFORMANCE the company is so proud of?
          Eventually I did get Marie on the phone. She told me I must contact their Marketing Manager Tanja Geyer at  
GSK's Tanja Geyer
          A fat lot of good that was.
          In an email I asked her what independent scientific evidence her firm had to show that their Aquafresh toothpaste “strengthens the enamel” of teeth, as claimed in the advertisements that GSK had been running on DStv.
          My email was dated 1 November and on 8 November, when I had heard nothing from her I told her in an email that if I did not hear from her by 11 November I would assume that her firm had no scientific proof that Aquafresh strengthens enamel, and I would write my story accordingly.  
          I got read reports on each occasion, but nothing more.
          How can this PERMORMANCE of Geyer’s possibly be described as a transparent backing of a product made by a company that can be trusted for its integrity? (See also: Are toothpaste manufacturer's claims true ) 

          Jon, a fearless Consumer Watchdog.  
P.S. GSK and Colgate-Palmolive have been involved in a long running legal battle since 2017 after Colgate accused GSK of false advertising for Aquafresh. Colgate argued that it could not substantiate its claim that this toothpaste offered 24 hour protection against glucaric acid, which was on the packaging and in adverts. South Africa's ASA initially found in favour of Colgate and ordered GSK to cease making this claim. GSK then took the matter to higher and higher courts where it has yet to be finalised             
P.PS. DStv is a direct broadcast African satellite service owned by MultiChoice that has about 12-million subscribers mostly in South Africa.                 

Friday, November 15, 2019


Dear Newspaper Readers,
Terry Worley
          I have recently exposed the Northern KwaZulu-Natal Courier on my blog for accepting an advertorial from ponzi scheme promoters that the paper itself had named as crooks. That was my first post on this subject, Newspaper Behaving Badly - the Courier exposes Ponzi Schemes and then takes their Tainted Money for an Advertorial
          It was followed by another one Newspaper’s Embarrassing Lesson after Libelling Engen (Newspapers Embarrassing Lesson) in which I took the paper to task because of the Engen logo that appeared, among others, in the advertorial. This was included, it would seem, to give readers the impression that the members of the De Beer family, who are behind the Coin-It and CommEx ponzi schemes, are very reputable business people.
         But like their ponzi rip-offs, this too was fraudulent. Engen has absolutely nothing to do with any member of this family or any of its companies I was told by Gavin Smith the firm’s External Communications Manager.
          In this post I included a very prominent link to my first story so that readers could see the explanation the paper gave for carrying the advertorial in the first place.
          Before posting my first story I sent an email to the Editor Terry Worley at the paper in Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal asking him why they had accepted that advertorial that painted Coin-It as a ‘do good’ charity organisation.
          “The Courier has just gone one better than the Sunday Times for appalling double standards just to make money,” I told him. You have also completely blown your belief “in the community newspaper being the trustworthy watchdog of the community.” This was one of his own quotes.
            I was referring to the fact that the Sunday Times carried two advertising inserts from CommEx and My House, ponzi schemes promoted by the same people as Coin-It, a few days after its sister publication had revealed that Coin-It and CommEx had been raided by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), which has since closed Coin-It. 
          Worley referred me to their advertising department without giving me the name of somebody to contact. He did however say: “Thanks for that. To be pedantic it was a half page ad, not a full page. PS. Loved your piece on Rowena’s (a ponzi investor I wrote a post about) plight, very well written. It appears as if the investigation has become stagnant with the Hawks but we are following up and apparently more investors, who have not received money need to make statements. We are told not even 15 have made statements and there are apparently 27 000.”
          Of my own volition I sent a similar email to Rod Skinner, the Regional Editor for this Caxton Group newspaper after establishing his credentials on Google. This time I added: “Surely that was the antithesis of good newspaper ethics. The message it sent was that your newspaper only cares about making money, not ethical behaviour.”
          He replied saying: “In fairness we had to give Coin-It a right of reply. They however insisted they wanted to reply in this manner. It is not for us to dictate how they as a company wish to exercise their right of reply. Nothing in the advertorial solicits business for the scheme.”          Since when have outsiders, particularly crooks, had an automatic right to tell a newspaper what and how they want something published?
          After posting my story about Engen I sent a link to Rowena James the anti-ponzi scheme activist who has been doing her best to get these ponzi promoters behind bars. I had also featured her several times on my blog.
          She then put a link to this on Facebook where she has a group called: The Truth - Exposing the Dundee Ponzi scheme boss.

In an interaction between her and Terry Worley that followed he stated: “You may like to know we are taking legal action against this person. Thank you.
“He himself followed no journalistic ethics to the ‘other side of the story’. We suspect his motives.”
Rowena then commented: “Terry Worley feel free to express your side of the story here, if you so wish.”
He replied: “It’s fine many thanks. It is out of my hands now as it has been escalated to our legal department in Johannesburg.”
After Rowena told me about this I replied saying that if I was to write about this threat I would obviously have to mention her in view of where it was made. I asked if this was okay as she could not be blamed for what I wrote about the Courier.
“I’m not scared of Terry,” she answered. “He probably was hoping for me to remove the post. I won’t do it.”
A few days later I received this odd email from Terry.
“Just a correction to your blog, our paper is paid for.” I had mistakenly stated that his paper was a free one. I immediately deleted the word “free” from the sentence that included “which has a weekly free distribution of 15 000 copies.”
He finished his email with this: “Meantime, thanks for all the free publicity. Best Terry. PS Check PMB High Court Dec. 4 Liquidation bid against Coin-It resumes. I assume you will cover this on your blog.”
 In my email reply I told him I had made the correction and asked: “What’s this I see on Facebook about you threatening legal action against me. It would not make much of a case if your only complaint about my reports (Totalling 1637 words) so far is that I got one word wrong.”
          He answered: “Our legal department is taking it up.”
          The Courier is part of the Caxton Group, one of the largest publishers and printers in South Africa. Its revenue this year was R6321-million with a profit of R452-million. So it has plenty of money to enable it to throw its legal weight around in this David and Goliath encounter.
          Let the truth prevail, because that’s what really seems to be what’s bugging the Courier, otherwise its Editor would surely have contacted me by now with a far more substantial complaint than that I had a word wrong that made absolutely no material difference to the main thrust of what I had written.
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How our daughter Belinda got to hold THE CUP

Dear Sports Fans,

         The last thing we would have expected was to see this daughter of ours with THE CUP.
         She’s not a bit sporty and I don’t think she knows a rugby player from a cricketer.
         But there she was holding THE CUP looking as pleased as any winner.
         I’m sure the rest of the family were just as surprised as we were. She’s a fashion designer not some hot shot athlete; let alone a Springbok rugby fan.
         So how could she have possibly wangled it to be pictured like this holding THE CUP?
         The secret’s out now.
         Here is the all revealing picture of her holding THE CUP.

         Her friend Australian TV personality Shaynna Blaze invited Belinda Glynn to accompany her to the Melbourne Cup - Australia’s premier horse race that brings the nation to a standstill once a year. 150 000 people were there, although attendance was down this time because of animal abuse protests.
         It seems there’s always somebody protesting about something wherever you go these days.
Shaynna beside the helicopter they arrived in
         They were flown in by helicopter in true celebrity style and whisked away to the Bird Cage, otherwise known as the V.I.P. enclosure. In one of the marquees the cup was passed around for people to have their pictures taken. Everybody handling it had to wear a white glove so as not to damage it in any way, as if Vow and Declare, the first Aussie horse to win in a decade was worried about that as it passed the winning post.
         Outside the area where Belinda was that was reserved exclusively for the toffs the peasants were living it up in keeping with their status as these Daily Mail pictures show.
Not one of the winners and a Flower Child looking 
for his bottle
A stickler for tidiness

A Sure Bet
          Darling, I’m so thankful we were well separate from that lot. The way they behaved was absolutely ghastly. Imagine the trouble we would have if one of them managed to gate crash our New Year’s Eve Ball. It would spoil it completely.
         True to her sporting pedigree Belinda didn’t even have a bet, something she might have regretted if she had heard that one young punter won a cool $800 000 shortly after he bust up with his girlfriend on the course. But there’s nothing like a win like this to bring a couple together again.
         Belinda and her friend certainly had their fill of racing over two days which gave our daughter, the sole inspiration behind the Once Was fashion label, the opportunity to show off another one of her own designs.
         I couldn’t possibly be seen in the same creation two days running, my dear. I would never live that down.
Belinda & husband
         Shaynna is an interior designer, writer and former singer who is best known for co-hosting shows like Selling House Australia and other ones to do with the buying and selling of houses and the like.
         Belinda Glynn is a naturalised Australian, born and educated in South Africa where she studied clothing design at the Natal Tech before emigrating to Melbourne. There she has made quite a name for herself as a fashion designer.
         Jon & Gayle

P.S. Do you recognise this CUP?

P.P.S. For those in the more civilised parts of the world where they don’t play barbaric games, the relevance of this story is that South Africa has been in the grip of rugby fever since it won the rugby WORLD CUP for the third time in Japan. And THE CUP, followed by crazed fans, has just been paraded around the country.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Dear Newspaper Readers,

          Those in charge of advertising at the Northern KwaZulu-Natal Courier must surely be regretting it now.
          The paper’s greed was such that it accepted feloniously obtained money from people it knew were crooks. It had first hand knowledge of this because it had carried not one exposé of the Coin-It and CommEx ponzi schemes, but three in quick succession.
          Then, on the face of it just to make money, it accepted a half page advertorial written by the promoters of these schemes that did nothing else but extol the charitable work Coin-It had been doing around Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal where these con-artists are based.
          At the bottom of this notorious puff for Coin-It the promoters included colour logos of what a reader could only conclude were businesses own by members of the De Beer family, the people behind these ponzi schemes. One was for Engen the R70 000-million a year South African oil company that was voted South Africa’s Favourite Petrol Station this year for the ninth consecutive time in the Sunday Times’ annual Top Brands Awards.
          Hardly a company you would expect to be associated with these Dundee crooks. So I sent an email to Yussa Hassan Engen’s Chief Executive asking him if he was happy to have Engen’s name linked to the De Beer family and their ponzi scheme rackets. Shortly afterwards I got the following reply from Gavin Smith Engen’s External Communications manager.
          It was clear that Engen had been seriously libeled by the compilers of this advertorial and the Courier for printing it. They were very lucky that Engen was evidently not interested in taking it any further.
          But it shows how dicey it is for a newspaper to print something like this, especially when it comes from known swindlers.(Newspaper behaving badly)
          Meanwhile activist Rowena James quit as the Administrator of the Facebook group she started to try and nail those responsible for these ponzi schemes.
          “I actually feel I have done all I can,” she told me. “So there it is the activist has hung up her hat. Our advocate failed to get an urgent order to liquidate Coin-It because the company suddenly found 28 investors who had been paid every month.”
          This is just a token amount among what is said to be 27 000 people who put their faith in Coin-It for a better life only to find it has now been closed by the authorities.
“So they are opposing the order.” Rowena continued. “We go back to court on 4th December.
“I still have not heard from the Hawks. I did however email Gerrie Nel’s office. I got a reply and apparently the Commercial Crimes Unit; Asset Forfeiture Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority are all working on this case. I was told to just cooperate with them.” 
          A day later Rowena had changed her mind. “I have been dragged back into the fold due to some new developments,” she said. “A number of investors asked me not to hang up my boxing gloves just yet.
          “Last night a man phoned me and told me he had been a policeman for 30 years. He asked me not to stop as he said I was doing a sterling job. He is from Pietermaritzburg and undertook to visit Sgt. Zuma (the member of the Hawks dealing with the investigation) and get us some decent feedback.
          “So, I am stepping up my campaign to get investors to make statements to Sgt. Zuma and we are doing all we can to cooperate, despite the fact that my statement was leaked.”
          She added that some investors had staged a sit-in outside Coin-It’s premises and had refused to leave until they get paid. (Rowena James gets death threat)
          It was very brave of a small community newspaper like the Courier (Readership of 15 000 around Dundee with a weekly distribution of 4 500 papers) to expose the shenanigans of these ponzi schemes that have millions to spend on legal actions, but then they spoilt it all by taking that advertorial. I gathered that the Editor Terry Worley had no say in the matter as so often happens on newspapers when money making advertising is concerned.
          Jon, the Consumer Watchdog you can count on.
P.S. I didn’t go any further with my investigation into the logos of the businesses that appeared in the advertorial as I felt that Engen was the most important one.