Examples common to all regulated professions

This information outlines examples of advertising claims that don’t meet the legal requirements and how to make them compliant. Ahpra and the National Boards are sharing these examples to help you check your own advertising to ensure you comply with your obligations under the National Law.

Why the advertising is non-compliant and how the specific examples could be corrected is based on our assessment of advertising complaints we have received across the 16 regulated health professions. To do this we apply the National Law and any further guidance that National Boards and Ahpra publish, including the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service and resources on our websites. 

We have also published profession-specific examples for the Chinese medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy professions.

Important information

Check if your advertising complies with legal requirements

Key

These examples highlight non-compliant advertising of regulated health services on websites, social media sites such as Facebook, print advertisements and/or advertising on third party websites.

Text in green means this is okay and is unlikely to mislead consumers.
Text in orange means it can depend. If you have provided the appropriate context and clarification in your advertising, it is unlikely to be misleading to consumers.
Text in red means this advertising is in breach of the legal requirements, and you should remove it from your advertising.

Examples of non-compliant advertising and how to correct it

Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply
Our treatment can cure cancer. This advertising is considered false, misleading and deceptive.

This statement is not supported by acceptable evidence and therefore may mislead consumers. 

This statement will need to be removed.

Pay particular attention to:

  • how language is used in your advertising as consumers could be misled, and
  • words such as ‘cure’ should be used carefully, as it is often not possible to establish a causal connection between providing a health service and subsequent patient improvement.
Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

Our treatment can help with:

This advertising is considered misleading and deceptive.

This advertising lists a broad range of conditions, and it’s not clear how the treatment being advertised will help with each condition listed.

This advertising is unqualified and/or is not supported by acceptable evidence and therefore may mislead consumers.

What is acceptable to include in a list of conditions depends on the regulated health service advertised and whether there is evidence to support the claim being made.

The treatment advertised may be able to help manage symptoms often associated with a condition (e.g. muscular tension associated with asthma) rather than treating the condition itself.

If this is made clear in your advertising then you will be unlikely to mislead consumers.

For example, if the regulated health service being advertised is a manual therapy, this statement could be corrected to read:

  • Back pain 
  • Neck pain
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Behavioural disorders

Our treatment can help with

  • Back pain 
  • Neck pain 
  • Managing symptoms such as muscular tension often associated with asthma

Pay particular attention to:

  • listing health conditions in your advertising as this is often misleading.
Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

And now it can’t be disputed. Our care works and now we know why it’s better than pain-killing drugs with side effects.

This advertising is considered misleading and deceptive.

This claim  may mislead consumers as it does not include complete information and/or is not supported by acceptable evidence.

This statement will need to be removed.

Pay particular attention to:

  • use of comparisons in advertising often risks misleading and/or deceiving the public, and
  • make sure to include complete information, it can be difficult to include substantiating information when comparing one health service with another

Further information on acceptable evidence in health advertising can be found on the Ahpra website

Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

Our long experience of successfully treating patients with mental health issues shows that we can effectively treat depression, anxiety and many other mental health conditions.

This advertising is considered misleading and deceptive.

This claim may mislead consumers as it is not supported by acceptable evidence.

This statement will need to be removed.  

Pay particular attention to:

  • personal experience and anecdotes are not acceptable evidence and do not justify making claims in advertising, and
  • if there is not acceptable evidence that justifies making the claim in advertising, leave it out.
Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

1. Our practice includes Dr Smith,

These advertisements are considered misleading and deceptive as they include claims about specialising.

When a practitioner does not hold specialist registration, any advertising using words or titles related to speciality (e.g. ‘specialist’, ‘specialises in’ or ‘specialised’) is likely to mislead the public to believe the practitioner holds a type of specialist registration approved under the National Law.

Example 1 - Unless you have specialist registration under the National Law, you cannot use the term ‘specialist’ or ‘specialises’ (or similar) when referring to your practice or registration in your advertising.

Even if you have extra training and experience, you cannot give the impression or advertise that you specialise or are a registered specialist in osteopathy.

There are no recognised specialist categories for the osteopathy profession. As osteopaths can only apply for general registration, this advertising would need to be corrected by removing the reference to specialising in paediatrics.

Instead, Dr Smith could say:

who specialises in paediatric osteopathy.

I have a particular interest in musculoskeletal issues in children.

2. J Jones,

 

 

Example 2 - There is no specialist registration category for physiotherapists. However, in recognition of historical arrangements before the National Scheme the Physiotherapy Board of Australia recognises qualifications from the Australian College of Physiotherapy.

As such, the Board considers the appropriate use of qualifications from the College in advertising as acceptable when accompanied by wording that establishes those credentials.

Any reference to the further qualification must clearly specify the relevant educational award.

This advertising would need to be corrected to clarify the title 'specialist sports physiotherapist' does not relate to the physiotherapist’s registration. Instead, J Jones could say:

Specialist Sports Physiotherapist.

J Jones, Specialist Sports Physiotherapist (as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2010).

This example is only relevant for the physiotherapy profession as this is the only National Board that acknowledges further education in this way.

3. Dr Brown (Psychology), BS, MS, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

 

Example 3 -There are no recognised specialist categories in psychology, although there are areas of practice endorsements. If Dr Brown holds an area of practice endorsement for clinical psychology, then the identification as a clinical psychologist is appropriate.

However, the reference to being a ‘behavioural disorder specialist’ in this context may be misleading as it implies specialist registration or a higher level of qualification in the psychology profession.

This advertising would need to be corrected by removing the reference to ‘behavioural disorder specialist’.

and behavioural disorder specialist.

4. Dr Jeffries, Specialist Dentist.

 

Example 4 - If you claim to be a specialist health practitioner you must identify the recognised specialist category that you are registered in.

Pay particular attention to the fact that there are only recognised specialist registration types for three professions (medical practitioners, dental practitioners, and podiatrists).

This advertisement could be corrected by including the specialist registration type held by the practitioner:

Dr Jeffries (Dentist) Specialist Endodontist 

Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

As an incentive to my existing patients to introduce their friends and family to our work, I am offering a $20 discount on their first visit! Just fill in the forms on our new website, present them to reception and get a $20 discount!

This advertising offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a person to use the service or the business, without also stating the terms and conditions of the offer.

This advertising needs to be corrected to include terms and conditions.

It may not be possible in some advertising to display the terms and conditions alongside an offer of a gift, discount or inducement. In this case the offer should direct the public to the location of the terms and conditions, such as through a link or directions to the section of the advertiser’s website that contains the terms and conditions. This allows for an advertiser’s full terms and conditions to be stated.

Advertisers must ensure that terms and conditions are easily found and accessible by the consumer. The consumer should not be required to exhaustively search for or contact the advertiser for terms and conditions.

For example, if the below terms and conditions were included the offer is unlikely to be misleading.

As an incentive to my existing patients to introduce their friends and family to our work, I am offering a $20 discount on their first visit! Just fill in the forms on our new website, present them to reception and get a $20 discount! Terms and conditions: this offer is only available to new clients.

Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

When I was first diagnosed, I felt there was no hope for me to survive. I had constant pain and was unable to care for myself. But then I saw Dr Smith at Wonders Day Surgery. Dr Smith agreed with my diagnosis but was able to provide treatment which saved my life. Dr Smith cured me and I have no more pain.

This advertising includes testimonials.

The National Law prohibits the use of testimonials or purported testimonials in advertising of regulated health services.

You can’t use feedback or reviews from patients that includes a clinical aspect of a regulated health service in your advertising.

A clinical aspect exists if one of the following is expressed:

  • Symptom – the specific symptom or the reason for seeking treatment
  • Diagnosis or treatment - the specific diagnosis or treatment provided by the practitioner.
  • Outcome – the specific outcome or the skills or experience of the practitioner either directly or via comparison.

The testimonials in red include a clinical aspect and are prohibited in advertising. They will need to be removed. The statement in green can be used because it is not considered a testimonial as it does not refer to a clinical aspect of a regulated health service.

If you’re unsure about whether or not a review used in your advertising breaches the prohibition on testimonials, you may wish to seek independent advice or remove it from your advertising.


Jessie, 35, is just one of many satisfied patients who says: ‘As a patient who has received this treatment, I confirm that it really does work and my back pain disappeared after three sessions’.

Dana, 46, says: ‘The practice is really lovely and I have been going there for years. Parking is great and there are lots of magazines in the waiting area.

Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

If you often suffer from neck pain,

This advertisement directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.

This advertising claim is not supported by acceptable evidence. It is not linked to management of a particular condition or patient, so there is no basis for the recommendation of monthly check-ups.

This advertisement could be corrected to say:

we recommend that you come in for regular check-ups, ideally every month,

to help you manage your condition and stay active.

we recommend that if you are suffering from neck pain you come in for check-ups as soon as symptoms arise. We can also provide you with exercise and lifestyle advice to help you manage your condition and stay active.

Pay particular attention to:

  • whether it’s acceptable to encourage regular check-ups in advertising as it will depend on the context of the advertising and language used, and evidence to support the claim, and
  • claims that are specific about the frequency of check-ups (e.g. recommending monthly check-ups) or claims about the check-up/treatment preventing particular conditions or symptoms. All claims in advertising must be supported by acceptable evidence.
Advertising content Why it is non-compliant Changes that would help this advertising to comply

Most patients find that periodic check-ups with us prevent illness and help keep them in tip-top health.

This advertising directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.

This advertising claim is not linked to management of a particular condition or relief of a specific symptom. It links regular check-ups to a therapeutic benefit for which there is no acceptable evidence – being actual prevention of disease.

This statement will need to be removed.

Pay particular attention to:

  • advertising that encourages consumers to use a regulated health service when there is no clinical indication to do so and is likely to encourage the unnecessary use of health services.
 

Disclaimer: The information used in these examples is for guidance only. If, after reviewing the examples listed, you are still unsure if your advertising complies with the National Law you may wish to seek advice from your professional association, insurer and/or independent legal adviser.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 14/12/2020