Healthcare services on Groupon risk breaking the law

Healthcare services on Groupon risk breaking the law

SINGAPORE - The next time you are browsing through Groupon, be careful if you see clinics and health-care firms advertising their services.

They may be flouting the Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines on health-care advertising, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

Under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, it is against the law for health-care firms to put up advertisements that can be seen to be soliciting or encouraging the use of their products or services.

As such, using words and phrases like 'best', 'discounts', 'preferential rates' and 'valid for (time frame)' is considered flouting the advertising guidelines.

Group buying sites like Groupon incentivise customers to purchase products or services by offering a discount if enough people sign up for the deal.

Other similar sites include StreetDeal and BigDeal.

Increasingly, health-care services such as chemical peels and teeth whitening procedures have been popping up on group buying platforms.

According to Groupon Singapore's chief executive Karl Chong, the number of health-care deals advertised on the site has doubled since last year.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and chiropractic services have also been making appearances on group buying sites. However, such services do not fall under the Act.

However, if they flout advertising guidelines by making misleading claims, they can still be suspended by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore.

The TCM Practitioners Board said it also has guidelines on how its members should advertise their services.

These guidelines include only placing pamphlets advertising their services in clinics and hospital lobbies.

An MOH spokesperson told ST that they are aware of such practices and are investigating several such cases.

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