Effective communication helps ensure that a client is kept fully informed and understands all aspects of the complementary therapist treatment.
Australia’s Advertising Regulations: What applies to complementary therapists?
Advertising regulations that apply to complementary therapists, and the importance of having a clear understanding of what is and is not compliant when advertising in Australia.
Advertising your complementary services gives you the opportunity to attract more customers, but are you aware of your legal requirements when doing so?
In this article, Edward Mitchell and Scott Shelly of leading health law firm Barry Nilsson discuss the advertising regulations that apply to complementary therapists, and the importance of having a clear understanding of what is and is not compliant when advertising in Australia.
This article focuses on advertising regulations applicable to Australia only.
Which regulations should you be aware of?
It’s important that your advertisements do not breach the following:
- the Code of Conduct for General Health Services;
- the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code; or
- the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
How does the Code of Conduct for General Health Services apply to complementary therapists?
The Code of Conduct for General Health Services applies to all general health services that are not regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). As a complementary therapist, the general code of conduct applies to you.
To maintain compliance with the general code of conduct, you must not:
- mislead about your products, services or qualifications;
- make false claims about curing serious illnesses; or
- discourage patients from seeking other health care or refuse to cooperate with practitioners if they do.
What should you consider before proceeding with an advertisement?
- Distinguish between the disease and symptoms - the advertisement must be clear as to whether the complementary therapies treat the disease or symptom of the disease or condition.
- Substantiating claims - always make sure that claims are substantiated with evidence.
- Acceptable evidence for advertising - any evidence included with advertising needs to be up to date, of a higher level, and be quantitative evidence. Anything that hasn’t been updated for the past five years is not acceptable evidence.
- An advertiser using the words 'safe and effective' must be careful as in many circumstances they can often be recognised as misleading.
What if you sell or use therapeutic goods?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) governs the use of ‘therapeutic goods’, which are products designed for use in people involving diagnosis or management of a disease, injury or physiological process. Some examples of these include:
- Cosmetic injectables
- Medical cannabis prescribing
- Compounded medicines
- Human cell & tissue products
Advertising for services that inherently involve therapeutic goods need to comply with the legislative requirements for advertising therapeutic goods as well as any requirements governing the advertising of services.
What is the Australian Consumer Law (ACL)?
Under the ACL, among other things, you must not engage in misleading advertising relating to qualifications, expertise, costs or possible outcomes. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is responsible for investigating complaints relating to breaches of the ACL. The ACCC’s powers include issuing infringement notices, seeking agreements from advertisers, instituting court action, seeking penalties including damages, restrictions and advertising corrections.
It is important to be aware of the above considerations before going ahead with any form of advertising (whether through television, radio, internet, print or any other form of media), to ensure that your advertising complies with the law.
How can BMS help?
BMS is the official insurance broker for IICT. If you hold IICT member insurance with BMS and receive a complaint regarding your services, reach out to BMS via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about IICT Membership and exclusive access to insurance for all your complementary therapies, please click here.
This article was facilitated by BMS and written by Edward Mitchell and Scott Shelly of Barry Nilsson.
This article provides commentary and general information only, and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. BMS and Barry Nilsson attempt to ensure that the material is accurate and current, but do not guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of the information provided. BMS and Barry Nilsson disclaim all liability for loss and/or damage that may result from the use of this article and/or its contents. Readers should seek legal advice suitable to their specific circumstances before making any decision, or taking or refraining from taking any action.
The contents of this article are correct as of 07.06.2023. Please note that relevant laws, regulations and guidance can change at any time.
BMS Risk Solutions Pty Ltd (BMS) AFSL 461594, ABN 45161187980 (AUS members) and BMS Risk Solutions (NZ) Limited (BMS), FSP 696531, NZBN 9429047279339 (NZ members) is the official and exclusive insurance broker for the IICT member insurance program in Australia and New Zealand. BMS is part of the wider BMS group, which is dedicated to providing coverage and value-added services to associations and their members. BMS group includes Lloyd’s broker BMS Group Ltd. The BMS group provides cover to more than 700,000 healthcare and regulated professionals through more than 100 associations across Australia, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
Article written by: Edward Mitchell and Scott Shelly of Barry Nilsson
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