Three impotency clinics have been injuncted against making false and misleading claims in national advertising about the erectile dysfunction treatments offered at their clinics.

In the Federal Court, Sydney yesterday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission obtained an injunction to prevent On Clinic Australian Pty Limited, Men Only Medical Clinic Pty Ltd and Potent-C Clinics (Australia) Pty Ltd from making certain misleading claims about their treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Justice Tamberlin also ordered the clinics to place corrective advertisements. The advertisements must offer to refund any payments by dissatisfied customers, who went to the clinics as result of the advertisements, and provide an 1800 freecall number for making refund claims.

Justice Tamberlin said: "The subject matter of the advertisements is emotive and of a highly sensitive and delicate nature and therefore the claims are likely to be impressed strongly in the consciousness of persons suffering from or in fear of impotence."

He also commented that the widespread nature of the advertisements meant that the representations had been extensively and regularly advertised in publications, including national and state newspapers with wide circulations.

Justice Tamberlin drew attention to the claims made in the advertisements saying: "If it is sought to attract public attention and custom by the use of unqualified assertions of fact, then such assertions should be true as a matter of fact, if they are not to mislead and contravene the norms of conduct prescribed by the Act."

The ACCC stressed that the suitability of the treatment was not of concern as it was widely used by medical practitioners, but rather it was concerned with the clinics' advertising claims.

The claims included that the treatment offered was the only one proven to work; that were no costs to the patient as the treatment was covered by Medicare; that the treatment took only two visits and that the diagnosis used 'unique' medical equipment.

The ACCC alleged that similar treatments were available from other clinics. It further alleged that while consultations were bulk-billed, there existed other significant costs not covered by Medicare, such as that for a course of the injections.

Additionally, the ACCC alleged that between one and five consultations were necessary to achieve the desired result, that the success rate of the treatment was about 85 per cent and that the 'unique' equipment was standard diagnostic equipment used by the majority of physicians and clinics specialising in treating erectile dysfunction.