This is a matter of trust – spa and wellness operators must be scrupulous when making claims about the benefits of all treatments and wellness experiences
– Liz Terry

Spa operator, Champneys, has come to an out of court agreement with West Sussex County Council in the UK, in relation to charges brought against it relating to food safety, the publication of nutritional information and consumer protection laws.

The operator will no longer face legal action, after the council and the company came to an agreement to keep the matter out of court.

The council’s legal team alleged that Champneys claimed ingredients in certain items on its menu, such as an apple dessert, could reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes and that a quinoa salad was labelled as being ‘anti-inflammatory’.

In addition, it alleged the operator failed to flag allergens on its menus – putting guests at risk – and said that dishes were served as being vegan in spite of the fact they contained milk.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The case has not been adjourned, but has been listed for 28 February 2020 at Worthing Magistrates Court, where the charges will be formally withdrawn.

“There will be no ‘hearing’ on that date. The court will simply be advised that the matter has been settled between the parties and there is no need for any further hearing. There will be no appearance by the defendant company.”

Champneys had been due to stand trial in front of magistrates on 18 February 2020 but both the council and Champneys did not attend the court session.

Explaining the reason for this, the spokesperson said: “The council and the company came to an agreement as to how the various charges would be dealt with and recorded and, as a result, no trial of the charges was considered to be in the public interest.

Champneys told Spa Business it ‘accepted a caution’ on three charges out of 19 – specifically advice relating to the ingredients of an apple dessert having anti-cancer properties, another relating to the fibre content of a quinoa salad and another regarding misuse of the word ‘parmesan’. The remainder of the 19 charges were dropped.

“The council considers the agreement reached was a satisfactory outcome and meant that the investigation and action taken had been beneficial,” said the spokesperson.

Despite the agreement, the incident will remain a matter of public record and could be damaging to the brand’s reputation.

Liz Terry, editorial director of Spa Business and Spa Opportunities said: “This is a matter that all spa and wellness operators can learn from.

“As an industry, we must be scrupulous when making claims about the benefits of all aspects of the wellness experiences we offer.

“Any declarations made must be verifiable, truthful and ultimately capable of withstanding investigation and scrutiny, to ensure the wellbeing of customers and safeguard the reputation of the industry”.