Homeopathy Plus faces huge penalties in ACCC case

Fran Sheffield and her website Homeopathy Plus have been hit with penalties of $23k and $115k respectively for their continued claims that the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine did not work and that homeopathy was an effective alternative.

The case against Sheffield and the website was brought by industry watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission following repeated complaints from skeptical activists.

Sheffield refused to comply with orders from the ACCC – initiated in 2012 – to take the offending article down from her site, rather posting slightly edited versions that still contained the same claims. The Commission took her to court in 2013.

On October 13, 2015, Justice Melissa Perry of the Federal Court of Australia finally handed down her judgement on penalties: Sheffield was given 90 days to pay her penalty of $23,000, and Homeopathy Plus given 30 days to pay $115,000.

In addition, both parties are restrained for five years from making any statements or representations, in trade or commerce, to the effect that the vaccine currently available against whooping cough is ineffective, and that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative.

The court also found that the ACCC was entitled to costs which, considering the time and legal authorities involved, could possibly be a much greater amount than the pecuniary penalties.

The judgement from Justice Perry says that she had taken into account various matters, including that the contraventions were “extremely serious in light of the risk they pose to public health and the heightened importance generally in cases of this kind of general deterrence and here, also of specific deterrence.

“It is important to send a strong message that the kind of conduct undertaken in this case will attract a penalty which ensures that such contraventions are not regarded as merely an acceptable part of the price of doing business,” she said.

She added that a “passionate belief” was not a defence in a matter that contravenes Australian consumer law and creates serious risks to public health.”

The apparent ill health of Sheffield and her husband, and their claimed difficult financial situation (though no bank statements had been offered in court to substantiate this claim), were taken into consideration.

“I consider that it would be crushing to impose on her a substantial pecuniary penalty, although the penalty must still pay specific attention to general and specific deterrence.”

10 thoughts on “Homeopathy Plus faces huge penalties in ACCC case”

  1. I think the judge was very suspicious of the claimed “financial difficulties” in the absence of any independent 3rd party supporting evidence. Justice Perry said:
    “I cannot find that the imposition of any penalty on Mrs Sheffield would be financially ruinous. There is clearly income being earned by Mrs Sheffield and her company Homeopathy Plus which she has chosen not to disclose.”

  2. So she claims in her defence she is ill? As in, what, her homepathic products haven’t cured her supposed illness? Kinda shot herself in the foot there, hahahahaha.

  3. Here’s hoping the FDA or FTC follow suit here in the US. Natural News and Mercola pose the danger that new readers will fall prey to their deceptive claims and products every day. Their conspiracy theory devotees are probably a lost cause, but we can help protect the public from misrepresentations under existing US law.

  4. When western medicine failed my family I began learning about and try homeopathy, using herbs, and other natural remedies. Because of these alternative options my kids were able to be cured, yes it’s a radical word, but in fact cured of chronic ear infections (that we were pushed to get tubes for) & other reoccurring childhood illnesses. After using natural remedies never did we have a occurrence again. The doctor thought the antibiotic worked but I didn’t give it to him that “last hurrah before tubes”. My experience with natural healing has been from conventional ways failing and trying something new. Let me tell you we do not deal with illness like our friends and family around us who are “skeptics”. If this woman had a personal experience curing whooping cough or cutting it’s duration with homeopathy, she should be allowed to share her personal testimony. The vaccine companies are afraid, afraid of loosing business to the power of the plant. But if we all think about it, modern medicine was originally derived from plants, then synthetic forms were created. Concern for health is not the motivation of such companies it’s money. Let’s all get real! Afraid of a homeopathy company haha. They should be because when people start experiencing real results there’s little need for pharmaceuticals.

    1. Nicole,

      Your kid got better because that is what happens with kids who get ear infections. They get older, their immune system develops resistance to the common infections, and the infections stop occurring. Your natural remedies had nothing to do with it. You have made a logical error called “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”. look it up.

      I’m glad your child is better.


    2. You seem to be conflating two different things, herbal medicine and homeopathy. The former has some merit – as you say, a lot of remedies were originally made from plants. Medical science has studied herbal medicine – and the bits that worked are now called “medicine”; the rest is just a nice bowl of soup and some pot-pourri.

      But homeopathy? Have you actually studied what it entails? Repeated dilutions of what starts out as a very small quantity of something.
      To the the extent that, in a volume of water the size of the Altantic, it’s most likely that there is not a single molecule of the original substance. And don’t tell me about water having “memory” – it’s convenient that it “remembers” the substance of choice and forgets all the shit it’s ever had in it.

      Finally – the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

    3. “when western medicine failed my family” – you mean scientifically proven procedures and medicines, unlike homeopathy. Which ‘failed your family’ of curing ‘ear infections’ and other ‘recurring childhood illnesses’. That is weird because I went to the doctor as a child with ear infections and other recurring childhood illnesses, and my doctor managed to prescribe medicines that healed me. Also I’m confused about why you used ‘western’ antibiotics alongside the ‘natural’ quackery you administered. But sure, it was most likely your magical herbs that did the healing not the scientifically proven antibiotics.

      Your family are sensible to be skeptical of anyone claiming ‘natural’ products that have zero scientifically demonstrable benefits actually work. Especially where their children are concerned. To deny your children modern medical care, instead preferring to give them pseudo-science nonsense from 200 years ago that has been roundly disproven by discoveries in biology and other life sciences since then is irresponsible at best and downright dangerous at worst.

      If this woman had a personal experience curing whooping cough it would have to be magic or the placebo effect, because innumerable scientific studies have failed to find any evidence of efficacy. Scientific studies. Not mumbo jumbo. ‘when people start experiencing real results there’s little need for pharmaceuticals’. Given that no-one in any studies has ever experienced real results, I think we’ll be sticking with pharmaceuticals. Eventually homeopathy will be consigned to historically silly ‘cures’
      people once believed in out of ignorance, like bloodletting, and leeches.

    4. You did not give your kid/s antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, instead went for homeopathy?

      You are an idiot, and should not have kids.

  5. It’s sad to know that HomeopathyPlus has been fined by the court. She has been working hard to inform the general public about the toxic ingredients in most conventional vaccines such as mercury, aluminium, formaldehyde, etc.

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