Boots' ban on rival sun cream ratings

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No ethical stars for Boots. The stalwart UK health and beauty chain has banned low-price competitors from using its widely known UVA star rating system on their sun cream bottles, which could raise the risk of skin cancer for many consumers. The move will have a massive effect on own-brand retailers such as Tesco and Asda.


Rubbing it in

"At a time when skin cancer rates are on the rise, it's even more important for consumers to have more, rather than less information on how to stay safe in the sun," Dr Russell Emerson of Hove Skin Clinic told the Daily Mail.

However, Boots has not banned its UVA-star system from more expensive prestige brands such as Garnier and Piz Buin. That's because Boots' own brand skin cream does not compete in the same price bracket.

Moves like this undermine confidence in this retailer's ethical stance. In 2009 private equity-owned Boots pulled out of a retail industry-recognised ethical trading ban. Which meant the company was able, if it chose, to skimp on labour codes right down the supply chain.

No stars

Boots is a private company so it's more difficult to understand how the company operates compared to a public company. But its move to ban competitors from using such a widely praised safety move tells you quite a bit about its owners. Ruthless.

Rates of skin cancer in the UK have doubled in the last decade. Malignant melanomas are the least common but they are most serious type of skin cancer - 11,767 new cases were diagnosed in 2008 (the last year we have figures).

More than two 15-34 year olds are now diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day and it is thought the second most common cancer in this age bracket.

Did Boots need to do this? It reported £1bn in profits last year, partly helped by having its head office in Switzerland, thereby paying UK tax on just 3% of its profits. Shame on it.

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