IVF 'success rate' claims under the microscope

14 November 2016

Several major IVF clinics have made changes to claims published on their websites about success rates following an Australian Competition and Consumer investigation into potentially false or misleading representations. 

“The ACCC reviewed website content from all major Australian IVF clinics and found that some made success-rate comparisons without adequate disclosure about, or qualification of, the nature of the data or graphics used to make the claim,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. 

“In addition, some IVF clinics used technical terms understood by industry participants but which may be misleading to consumers without further clarification or explanation.”  

For example, some IVF clinics used ‘clinical pregnancy rate’ data to compare their success rates where that data reflected the clinic’s success in creating an embryo, rather than live birth rates. These comparisons were sometimes accompanied by photographs of newborn babies. The ACCC considered that this was likely to lead to consumers being given a misleading impression about the rate of successful pregnancies achieved by the clinic. 

“The Australian Consumer Law applies to the advertising of all goods or services offered to Australian consumers, including complex medical procedures such as these,” Ms Court said.

“The ACCC expects that all IVF clinics will take care to ensure that success-rate comparisons are clear and accurate, and based on data that is explained in non-technical terms so that consumers can rely on it to make informed choices about which IVF clinic to use.”

"The ACCC will continue to monitor complaints received about claims made by IVF providers and won’t hesitate to take further action if IVF providers are making false or misleading claims,” Ms Court said. 

The ACCC’s investigation followed a complaint from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

As part of its review, the ACCC worked with the Fertility Society of Australia, the IVF industry’s peak body, to improve industry-wide awareness of, and compliance with, the Australian Consumer Law. The Fertility Society of Australia is continuing to work with industry participants to improve transparency about success rate claims and comparisons. 

 

Release number: 
MR 212/16
ACCC Infocentre: 

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