Mothercare promoting Cow & Gate and SMA brands and feeding bottles through Gurgle emails

Gurgle.com is an online mother and baby club that emails subscribers with information and product offers. It claims: "gurgle is the web's friendliest community for first time parents."

The Gurgle website is currently (12 April 2012) promoting the SMA brand of formula and encouraging parents to visit Wyeth's site, which promotes the full SMA range (this adverisement is analysed in the Wyeth section).

Click on the images for larger versions

In an email sent to subscribers on 12 April 2012, Gurgle promotes the Cow & Gate brand with an alert with the subject "Fab prizes from Cow & Gate".

The email refers to a 5-step weaning plan and links to an internet website that promotes the Cow & Gate formula brand.

BFLG member, Baby Milk Action has been raising concerns with Gurgle since 2009 regarding its promotion of feeding bottles to new mothers in violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (see the Law section). 

Gurgle responded on 7 September 2009:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Gurgle is a pro breast feeding site. We do not allow advertising from Replacement milk brands so as to conform with the code of practice guidelines, unlike many other pregnancy and parenting publications.
 
I am unaware of any issues around carrying advertising from bottle brands, however I have passed your email onto our legal team for review.
 
I will forward their response as soon as I hear back from them.
 
No response from the legal department was ever forwarded, despite repeated requests.
 
Eventually a further response was received on 30 November 2010:
 
Dear Mr Brady
 
I have forwarded your email to our management team who I am sure will get back to you in the near future.
 
Gurgle.com is a pro-breastfeeding website and I would like to draw your attention to the dedicated breastfeeding support area of the site which is sponsored by Philips Avent which I hope will demonstrate both their and our commitment to the encouragement of breastfeeding.
 
 
Kind regards
the gurgle team
 
As Baby Milk Action pointed out, promoting Avent, a feeding bottle brand, is itself a violation of the Code.
 
No response from the management team was ever received.
 
It was noted that the Gurgle email of 28 September 2011 came from: Mothercare Group <gurgle@gurgle.mothercaregroup.com>
 
Baby Milk Action contacted Mothercare Group to ask if this was a new development or whether Gurgle.com, which frequently offered Mothercare promotions, had always been run by the company. The Gurgle.com domain name is registered to Gurgle.com, not Mothercare. The Gurgle.com site lists Mothercare as one of several partners, but not as the site owner.
 
No response was received. When the next email alert was received, Mothercare Group has been removed from the "From" identification.
 
However, the terms and conditions page of the Gurgle site (12 April 2012) reveals: 
 
gurgle's registered address: 
Mothercare UK Limited (a private limited company).
Registered in England no. 533087. VAT Reg no. 440 6445 66
Registered Office: Cherry Tree Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD24 6SH
 
Although Gurgle claimed in 2009 that it does not "advertising from Replacement milk brands" it is now promoting SMA and Cow & Gate brands as shown in the screen and email shots taken on 12 April 2012 above.

Mothercare vouchers are often offered by Gurgle, as on its site on 12 April 2012.

 
Mothercare sells both Cow & Gate and SMA brands of formula. It is clear from the packshots how the brand names and logos promoted by Mothercare/Gurgle dominates labels, in breach of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007). The accompanying Guidance Notes clearly state: 
 
"51. the specific terms ‘infant formula’ and ‘follow-on formula’ should be clearly featured on the packaging, in a font size no smaller than the brand name."
 
Mothercare - selling formula with the Cow & Gate brand it promotes through Gurgle.
 
 
Mothercare - selling formula with the SMA brand it promotes through Gurgle.
 
 
Mothercare has been asked once again to clarify the relationship with Gurgle and to respect the International Code and Resolutions and the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007).
 
The advertising on the site and the promotional email have been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards.