Non-compliant advertising will be on the radar of the regulator early next year when it begins a nationwide audit of health practitioners and introduces a new declaration for optometrists to sign.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)’s advertising clampdown will begin in February 2021 and involve practitioners who renewed their registration in 2020.
The authority believes it will be an effective approach to determine overall advertising and non-compliance rates after conducting an advertising audit pilot in 2019.
Advertising that breaches the National Law may lead to prosecution and a $5,000 penalty per offence for an individual or $10,000 per offence for a body corporate.
“Auditing will support improved compliance with advertising obligations across the entire registrant population, not just those who have had an advertising complaint,’ AHPRA regulatory operations executive director Ms Kym Ayscough said.
“It will also provide opportunities to become more proactive in preventing non-compliant advertising by registered health practitioners.”
As part of the new measures, when applying to renew their registration, health practitioners will need to complete a declaration about their advertising compliance. Its wording reminds practitioners of their obligations when advertising their services.
The audit process will not delay a decision on an application for renewal.
According to AHPRA, the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy for the National Scheme was launched in April 2017 to support improved compliance with the National Law advertising requirements through a risk-based enforcement and educative approach.
A revised strategy, along with updated guidelines for advertising a regulated health service to help health practitioners understand their obligations when they are advertising a regulated health service, has just been released. They come into effect 14 December 2020.
Optometry Australia reports that changes to the guidelines include:
- More content about testimonials, protected titles and claims about registration, competence and qualifications.
- New content about the evidence required for claims about the effectiveness of a regulated health service and what is acceptable evidence.
- Re-structuring of content so that information is easier to find.
- New flowcharts to help assess when advertising needs to be supported by acceptable evidence and whether a review is considered a testimonial.
Practitioners who are renewing non-practising registration and those who have contacted AHPRA in response to a complaint about their advertising in the past 12 months will not be included in the audit sample. Nor will those with provisional or limited registration as pharmacists or with provisional registration as medical radiation practitioners.
When applying to renew their registration, health practitioners will be required to complete a declaration in response to the following statement:
I confirm that if I advertise my services or my business as a health practitioner that advertising complies with section 133 of the National Law and the Board’s advertising guidelines as it:
- Is not false, misleading or deceptive or likely to be misleading or deceptive
- does not offer a gift, discount or other inducement without stating the terms and conditions of the offer.
- Does not use testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business.
- Does not create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment.
- Does not directly or indirectly encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of my services.
For information about your advertising obligations see the advertising resources page.