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Regulator clampdown on unclear IVF pricing

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Written by: Emma Lunn
10/06/2021
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is tackling unclear pricing and misleading success rates published by private IVF clinics.

The watchdog has warned clinics that they could face enforcement action if they don’t follow the rules.

As part of its campaign, the CMA has teamed up with broadcaster Lorraine Kelly on a video that encourages people to read its guide for patients when buying treatment.

Last February, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) raised concerns about some fertility clinics’ practices, such as providing unclear price information and advertising misleading success rates. It also identified a general lack of awareness that consumer law applies in the sector.

The CMA has now developed guidance for clinics by working closely with the sector regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

The guidance says clinics should provide the information that patients need so they can make a genuine comparison of clinics, including on price and success rates. They also need to ensure they don’t mislead patients, for example around the effectiveness of their treatments and what they will be paying.

The guidance also says they must not mis-sell treatments, such as ‘add-on’ treatments – these are optional extras offered by some clinics that can cost up to £2,500 per cycle – and clinics must make sure terms and practices are fair.

The CMA is promoting the guidance to patients and people who may be considering IVF, especially as more people are now paying for their own treatment.

It has also written to clinics to draw their attention to the guidance, in partnership with the HFEA and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The ASA has separately issued an enforcement notice to clinics that provides guidance on how clinics should advertise their services.

The CMA will be closely monitoring the sector and will consider taking enforcement action if it believes businesses are not complying.

Louise Strong, consumer director at the CMA, said: “Buying fertility treatment is a big decision – it can be complicated, stressful and very expensive, with no guarantee of success. All patients deserve to have the information they need to make the right choices for them and be treated fairly.

“Our guidance should help clinics understand their legal obligations. In six months, we will be reviewing compliance in the sector and we will be ready to take enforcement action if businesses are breaking the law.”

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