Health practitioners need to be aware that their advertising must comply not just with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) guidelines where appropriate, but also with national law.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the authority who enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Act covers areas including false and misleading claims, social media and managing online reviews.
On its website, AHPRA makes reference to Section 133 of the National Law relates to advertising. It states that:
A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that—
- is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive; or
- offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a person to use the service or the business, unless the advertisement also states the terms and conditions of the offer; or
- uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; or
- creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment; or
- directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.
All 14 National Boards regulating Australia’s health practitioners have published Guidelines for Advertising of Regulated Health Services, which are published on their individual websites (accessible via the AHPRA website). The guidelines are the best resources for understanding advertising and the National Law, and what is, and is not, permissible.
The Therapeutic Goods Advertising Council enforces the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. According to the TGA this is to ensure that the “marketing and advertising of therapeutic goods is conducted in a manner that promotes the quality use of the product, is socially responsible and does not mislead or deceive the consumer.”
TV and radio
Free TV Australia has developed a Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice to “reflect Australia’s modern digital media landscape, upholds community standards and ensures appropriate viewer safeguards.”
Commercial Radio Australia also sets out rules for radio advertising in its Codes of Practice & Guidelines.
AHPRA has an advertising fact sheet and a FAQ document for health professionals that you can download from their website.
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Image: smlp.co.uk – flickr
Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice, but as an alert for the relevant health practitioners to seek further information, or legal advice where appropriate.