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New guidance for fertility clinics over misleading information on prices and success rates

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Fertility clinics must ensure they do not mislead patients over price or success rates under new guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Drawn up in conjunction with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), it makes clear clinics’ legal obligations to treat people fairly and to help IVF patients understand their consumer rights.

It has written to clinics to draw their attention to the guidance, in partnership with the HFEA and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA has also issued an enforcement notice to clinics about how the services are advertised, in particular on their own websites.

The aim of the new guidance is to make sure consumers can make informed choices about the effectiveness of different clinics’ treatment and how much they cost.

Last February, the CMA raised concerns about some fertility clinics’ practices, such as providing unclear price information and advertising misleading success rates.

Examples given included “add-ons” – optional extras offered by some clinics that can cost up to £2,500 per cycle.

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It also identified a general lack of awareness that consumer law applies in the sector.

Louise Strong, consumer director at the CMA, said: “Buying fertility treatment is a big decision – it can be complicated, stressful and very expensive, with no guarantee of success. All patients deserve to have the information they need to make the right choices for them and be treated fairly.

“Our guidance should help clinics understand their legal obligations. In six months, we will be reviewing compliance in the sector and we will be ready to take enforcement action if businesses are breaking the law.”

The HFEA, which by itself does not have the power to tackle commercial aspects of the fertility market, said it had “long been concerned about how some clinics offer their services” in a sector where most patients pay for their own treatment.

HEFA chairwoman Julia Chain said: “We welcome the opportunity to work with the CMA and ASA to develop this new guidance in this unique area of healthcare.

“This is a major step forward for fertility patients as it provides added protection by ensuring that all clinics adhere to consumer and advertising law in addition to our regulatory requirements.

“By working together with other regulators, we can combine our powers to provide added protection in an evolving, competitive and commercial healthcare market.”