Self-funded IVF: consumer law guidance

The CMA is developing guidance for IVF clinics in the UK to ensure that they understand their obligations under consumer law.

Timetable

Date Action
Late 2020 (TBC) Consumer Protection Law guidance published
July 2020 (TBC) Draft guidance published and consultation
7 February 2020 Case opened

Summary

7 February 2020: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is undertaking work to develop guidance for IVF clinics in the UK. Currently, there is no written guidance on consumer protection law for the IVF sector.

The CMA is therefore concerned that clinics might not be aware of their obligations, and so is producing guidance which will cover issues such as:

  • Price transparency: Clinics should present clear and upfront prices for their treatments.
  • Potential mis-selling of treatments: Patients should not be mis-sold ‘add- on’ treatments, which are offered by some clinics and can cost up to £2,500 per cycle.
  • Success rates: Clinics should not mislead patients about how successful their treatments are and should ensure that rates are accurate and up to date on their websites and in advertising.
  • Unfair terms: Terms and conditions should be fair and transparent.

The CMA will be engaging with relevant stakeholders in the sector, undertaking research and working closely with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), to understand more about whether such practices are taking place, and to develop tailored guidance for the sector.

The CMA expects to consult on the guidance in July, and to publish final guidance later in the year. The CMA will also publish advice for patients.

At this early stage, the CMA has not reached a view as to whether consumer protection law may have been broken. However, if it finds evidence that some clinics’ practices and/or terms are misleading or unfair, it could take enforcement action.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is also looking at the IVF sector and will co-ordinate its work with the CMA and HFEA. The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising. Its work includes acting on complaints and proactively checking media, to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertising, promotional and direct marketing. The ASA will consider all options including the use of an Enforcement Notice to put the sector on notice about the need to comply with the rules.

We want to hear from you

The CMA wants to hear from you if you have experience of any of the above issues when buying IVF treatment.

If you wish to share your relevant experience with us, please do so by 10 April 2020 at the following email: ConsumerLawIVFTeam@cma.gov.uk.

Before doing so, please be aware that the CMA will use any information you provide in performing its statutory functions, and in accordance with the restrictions on disclosure in Part 9 Enterprise Act 2002.

Initially, the information you provide will help us develop our guidance, though it may also be used to help us in considering or taking enforcement action against IVF fertility clinics, should that be appropriate.

To the extent any information you provide contains personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) or domestic legislation like the Data Protection Act 2018, there is important information you should know about how we will use your information, this is available in the document below:

Contacts

Assistant Project Director

Lynn Parker (lynn.parker@cma.gov.uk)

Project Director

Louise Strong (louise.strong@cma.gov.uk)

Senior Responsible Officer

George Lusty (george.lusty@cma.gov.uk)

Published 7 February 2020