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CMA publishes for consultation its draft guidance on UK consumer law for fertility clinics

  • United Kingdom
  • Competition, EU and Trade
  • Consumer
  • Health and life sciences

03-12-2020

On 3 November 2020 the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued for consultation its draft consumer law guidance for the IVF sector. The aim of the guidance is to ensure that fertility clinics understand and comply with their legal obligations.

The CMA launched its review into the IVF sector in February 2020 after expressing concerns about fertility clinics’ practices particularly regarding lack of price transparency, unfair terms, potential mis-selling and misleading claims relating to success rates.

In order to help clinics address these concerns, the draft guidance focuses on:

  • what information clinics must provide patients and when this information is to be provided;
  • an explanation of the importance of providing patients with all the relevant material information needed to make an informed decision;
  • what clinics should do to ensure that their practices and contractual terms are fair under consumer law; and
  • steps clinics should take to ensure that they have a fair complaints handling process.                        

In compiling its draft guidance, the CMA worked closely with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (“HFEA”) and engaged in discussions with other stakeholders including patient representative groups, professional bodies and clinics. The CMA has stated that it will continue to engage with these parties and the wider sector in order to progress its work.

Peter Thompson, chief executive of the HFEA, stated that the draft guidance is “good news for patients and will help them at a time when they are making difficult decisions” and as “the majority of patients self-fund their fertility treatment in the UK…it is vital that they receive the right information at the right time and that clinic practices are fair under consumer law”.

Whilst the CMA has not yet established whether clinics have broken consumer law, it plans to conduct a compliance review once the final version of the guidance is issued and has suggested that enforcement action could be taken if it considers that breaches have occurred.

The consultation period for the draft guidance is open until 5 January 2020. The CMA is consulting with individuals and groups with an interest in the fertility sector and has encouraged interested parties to respond to questions found within the consultation document before the end of the consultation period.

The final version of the guidance is expected to be published in March 2021.

If you would like any further information or need advice on consumer law, please contact us.