The Meaning of “Misleading Advertising”

A case  before the Inquiries Complaints and Reports Committee (the “ICRC”) of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario the (“CCO”) illustrates the meaning of “misleading advertising.” This case also provides a helpful example of the requirement that health professionals ensure that information presented in advertising is “verifiable.” The Health Profession Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”) affirmed the decision of the ICRC.

The CCO ICRC made the following findings regarding the chiropractor’s advertising:

  • The advertisements included a stock photo of three people in lab coats, and then the logos of MayoClinic.com, PubMed and WebMD, each with a tick mark beside it, suggesting that the statement or treatment is found or endorsed on these sites. The Committee stated this was misleading.
  • The advertisements were hyperbolic and contained unverifiable statements such as
    • “local doctors and ingenious…”
    • Although they do not use the words “cure” or “guarantee” they raise vulnerable patients’ hopes with phrases such as “…and ELIMINATE or reduce the need for pain medication.”
  • The ICRC also noted that the prescription of drugs is a controlled act outside the scope of practice of chiropractic as set out in Standard S-001: Chiropractic Scope of Practice.
  • The ad offered a reduced fee “if you are one of the first 21 qualified callers” which is contrary to Standard S-016: Advertising.

The ICRC ordered that the chiropractor complete a specified continuing education and remediation program (“SCERP”) and attend before a panel of the ICRC for an oral caution.

This decision illustrates that whether an advertising is misleading or not is considered not just from the wording of an advertisement, but also from the images used and the overall impression or message from the advertisement as a whole. It also demonstrates that health professionals should carefully review advertisements to make sure that all statements made are verifiable, and within the scope of practice of the health professional.

 

Rosen Sunshine is pleased to present this special update with a focus on advertising.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) just enacted a new policy on advertising by physicians. As other health Colleges often look to the CPSO for guidance, this new policy will likely be influential throughout the health professions. In this update, we will provide an outline of the CPSO’s new policy, and our thoughts on what it could mean for other health professionals in Ontario and Canada. We have also included a brief history of the regulation of advertising by health professionals, summarized a few recent cases that provide valuable lessons with respect to advertising, and provided our thoughts and tips on advertising during COVID-19.

Other Updates in this Series Include:

Top 10 Things to Know about the CPSO’s new Advertising Policy
New CPSO Advertising Policy
History of Advertising by Health Professionals
The Value of Learning from ONE’s Mistakes
Advertising in the Times of COVID-19

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