UK’s CMA could impose tougher consumer guidelines for fertility clinics

Fertility clinics could face tougher guidelines after the Competition and Markets Authority(CMA) began a draft consultation on consumer practices, it has been announced

The move comes after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expressed concerns in February about fertility clinics’ practices, such as a lack of price transparency and misleading claims about success rates, meaning patients may be unable to compare clinics.

The competition watchdog said it was concerned that clinics may not be aware of their obligations under consumer law. This has prompted the production of the draft guidance to increase clinics’ awareness of the law.

The draft sets out what information clinics must provide to patients – and when this should be provided. It also explains what clinics should do to make sure their terms and practices are fair under consumer law.

To get to this stage, the CMA has worked closely with the sector regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), to understand patients’ experiences and learn more about how clinics operate.

The draft guidance states that clinics need to show the evidence behind specific add-on treatments offered and give women realistic success rates

The CMA has also spoken to other organisations with knowledge of the sector and carried out further research to understand patients’ experiences of self-funded IVF.

The nine-week draft guidance consultation is now open and will conclude on Tuesday, January 5 2021 and the CMA said it will continue to engage with clinics and the wider sector to progress its work.

A final version and a summary of responses received will be published next year. Alongside this, the CMA will also issue a short guide for IVF patients to help raise awareness of their consumer rights.

A CMA spokesman said: “As well as producing guidance, the CMA will continue its work in the sector, including conducting a compliance review once its final guidance has been issued. Should it find evidence that clinics’ practices or terms are unfair, the CMA will consider enforcement action. At this stage, however, the CMA has not reached a view as to whether or not the law has been broken.”

Peter Thompson, Chief Executive of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority(HFEA), said the HFEA was working closely with the CMA on the guidance

He said: “We are pleased to be working closely with the CMA on this guidance, which has been developed with input from the fertility sector, including patient groups, clinicians, and professional bodies.

“The draft guidance is being launched at our annual event for clinic leaders today and during national fertility awareness week. The majority of patients self-fund their fertility treatment in the UK, and it is vital that they receive the right information at the right time and that clinic practices are fair under consumer law. This is good news for patients and will help them at a time when they are making difficult decisions.

“We don’t have powers to regulate prices but, working alongside the CMA, we can ensure that patients can make informed choices. This is an important step forward for the fertility sector and patients. We encourage people to respond to the consultation ahead of the final publication of the guidance next year.”

To find out more about the consultation, click here

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