Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

13 Jun 2018

AHPRA has published further guidance for advertisers of regulated health services to emphasise that selectively editing reviews or testimonials has the potential to break the law.

The recent example of an organisation only publishing positive reviews and removing all negative information from consumer reviews shows the importance of advertisers understanding their advertising obligations under all relevant legislation.

Selectively editing reviews or testimonials has the potential to be false, misleading or deceptive and, therefore, be unlawful. For example it is inherently misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumer choice about their healthcare so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading. Advertisers’ moderation guidelines about publishing reviews must comply with the National Law1 and the Australian Consumer Law.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and National Boards recently published a testimonial tool to help advertisers understand what reviews can and can’t be published.

‘We’ve since updated the tool to help advertisers get it right when they are moderating reviews or testimonials against the National Law’s advertising requirements,’ AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said.

'If advertisers edit reviews or testimonials there is a high risk that the edited reviews will become misleading or deceptive. Only publishing complete and unedited reviews that are not testimonials will help advertisers to avoid breaching the National Law.

'This is because reviews that don’t refer to the clinical aspects of care are not considered testimonials and, therefore, may be allowed. But even if the review doesn’t breach the ban on using testimonials to advertise, the advertiser may be breaking the law on misleading and deceptive advertising if the review is misleading because it has been edited or does not reflect all the feedback received.'

Mr Fletcher encouraged all advertisers of regulated health services to consider the use of reviews very carefully and to make sure they meet their obligations under the National Law as well as the Australian Consumer Law.

‘Given the significant potential for consumers to be misled, we will consider strong enforcement action where advertisers don’t meet their obligations,’ he said.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources section on the AHPRA website.

For more information

  • Go to Advertising resources on the AHPRA website.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries: 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 03 9275 9009 (overseas callers).
  • For media enquiries: (03) 8708 9200.

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

 
 
Page reviewed 13/06/2018