Trust & Safety

Trade Me's blog on Trust and Safety issues.

To amber bead or not to amber bead?

Amber -teething -necklace

Amber bead necklaces are often worn by babies to help ease teething troubles.

Some parents absolutely swear by them and there’s been plenty of robust debate about the therapeutic benefits of amber beads – from which ones are the best, through to how on earth they could actually work.

It’s seemingly the stuff of magic. 

Last year the Commerce Commission decided amber beads are not magic and gave formal advice to an online seller who had been making some outrageous claims about the powers of their amber beads.

They said to the seller:

If you “cannot adequately substantiate all of the claims relating to the therapeutic benefits of the product, reasonable grounds do not exist for the claims to be made.  Such claims are therefore in breach of the Fair Trading Act.”

What does this mean? 

It means that you can’t make any unsubstantiated claims about amber beads in the listing body.

If your claims can’t be rigorously scientifically proven, then don’t state them.

But I swear they really do work!

While my second cousin (twice removed) and her hairdresser’s pet groomer both absolutely swear that amber beads made a huge difference to their teething babies, if they can’t actually prove it, then the advice of the Commerce Commission stands.

Have you got some examples of these misleading claims?

  • When worn against the skin, the amber warms and releases the oil that helps sooth and relieve symptoms of teething.
  • Scientific research has proved that succinic acid (or any other property) has a very positive influence on teething babies/pets/anyone.
  • Succinic acid ‘strengthens the body and improves immunity’.
  • Amber beads/succinic acid has been proven to be the equal to or better than any commercial drug, and much less expensive, etc.
  • Amber beads contain the essence of Unicorn Dreams, and will make all your wishes come true.

OK, I get it. How do I sell amber beads without making misleading claims?

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA) supports the Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting Service, often known as TAPS.

TAPS can be used as a service to ensure that the wording used in listings doesn’t breach any law.

If you’re selling at scale, it may be worth your while to use this service.

ANZA has produced a guide for advertisers when promoting products such as amber teething necklaces.

The guide provides examples of unacceptable therapeutic claims, acceptable claims and the warnings that should be included, including the risk of strangulation.

We strongly recommended that amber bead sellers on Trade Me adhere to the guide.

Risk of strangulation

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Trading Standards team has released some guidance on the use of amber teething necklaces.

These guidelines point out that necklaces aren’t designed to be chewed by the baby and they’re a potential strangulation risk.

Amber necklaces should be removed from a baby when the baby is unattended even if this is likely to be for a very short period of time. Babies shouldn’t be left wearing necklaces while sleeping – whether that is during the day or overnight.

Crikey, that’s a lot of words Trade Me, can I actually still sell amber beads?

Yes, you can, but don’t make any unsubstantiated claims and we recommend running your description past TAPS before you list on the site.