Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
 

Advertising: Strategy, legislation and guidelines

Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy

Our goal is to ensure advertising about regulated health services is done responsibly in order to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and to help them make informed choices about their healthcare.

The Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme sets out how we aim to achieve this using the regulatory tools available to us under the National Law1. It explains:

  • how our risk-based approach is applied to advertising compliance and enforcement
  • how we encourage voluntary compliance and deal with non-compliant advertising, and
  • how we plan to evaluate and refine this strategy.

Publishing this strategy makes it clear to the public and other stakeholders what our approach is and what they can expect from us. We have included ongoing evaluation of our work as a core part of our strategy, and we will continue to look for innovative ways to refine and improve our approach.

Responsible advertising is a professional and legal obligation. We recognise that most health practitioners want to comply with the law and their professional obligations, and we aim to make compliance as easy as possible.

AHPRA and the National Boards aim to achieve behaviour change among registered health practitioners by focusing on providing more education about their advertising obligations, developing consumer-facing information to improve the public’s understanding of what is acceptable advertising of regulated health services and raising awareness of where action has been taken by National Boards about breaches of the National Law.

   Advertising and the National Law

Section 133 of the National Law states that a person must not advertise a regulated health service or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that:

  1. is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive, or 
  2. 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 
  3. uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business, or 
  4. creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or 
  5. directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.

What penalties exist under the National Law?

A registered health practitioner, or a business providing a regulated health service, whose advertising breaches the National Law, may be prosecuted and ordered by a court to pay a $5,000 penalty per offence (for an individual) or a $10,000 penalty per offence (for a body corporate).

When a registered health practitioner has breached the advertising requirements a National Board may also decide that this raises concern about the practitioner’s conduct. Action under the National Law can include placing restrictions on an individual health practitioner’s registration which may affect their ability to practise the professions.

Find out more about the National Law or how National Boards manage complaints or concerns about registered health practitioners.

Guidelines for advertising of regulated health services

The 14 National Boards have published Guidelines for advertising regulated health services to help all advertisers, including registered health practitioners, meet their legal obligations when advertising. These are available on the website for each National Board. The guidelines are the best source of information to help practitioners understand advertising and the National Law, and what their obligations are when it comes to responsible advertising when they advertise their services to the public. The guidelines are also available on the AHPRA website.

Other legislation which may apply

Anyone who advertises a regulated health service must meet the National Law’s advertising provisions and other Australian legislation that may apply. This includes the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and the expectations of other Australian regulators such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), who also administer laws that relate to advertising of regulated health products and services.

The ACCC’s primary responsibilities are to ensure that individuals and businesses comply with Australian competition, fair trading, and consumer protection laws - in particular the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

The TGA is Australia’s regulatory authority for therapeutic goods. The TGA carry out a range of assessment and monitoring activities to ensure therapeutic goods available in Australia are of an acceptable standard with the aim of ensuring that the Australian community has access, in a reasonable time, to therapeutic advances.

If a complaint about an advertisement is relevant to another Australian regulatory authority such as the TGA or ACCC, AHPRA can refer the matter on to them. You can find out more by going to section 4.1 of the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services which explains how the National Law relates to other laws that apply to advertising.


1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law)

 
 
 
Page reviewed 14/07/2017