Contract terms designed to pressure people to sign up for 12 months of hair treatment have landed Ashley & Martin in Federal Court.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is alleging
Ashley & Martin, a network of clinics known for its hair loss
treatments that operate throughout the Asia Pacific, has padded its
contracts with unfair terms.
And that the inclusion of these terms ultimately deems the contracts void under
Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC claims, paving the way for compensation.
All three contracts used to sign customers up to the clinic's 'Personal
RealGrowth Program' mandated 12 months of hair treatment to be paid without
giving patients more than two days to consider medical advice, says Sarach
Court, a commissioner at the ACCC.
"Consumers considering contracts for medical treatments are often in a
vulnerable position. It is vital that these contracts allow a fair
opportunity for people to fully consider the treatment program and medical
advice, particularly where there is a risk of side effects.
"The program costs thousands of dollars to sign up to, and a customer
wanting to terminate the contract, even before being able to consult with a
doctor, would have been substantially out of pocket," she says.
It is unclear how many customers have been affected, though Ashley & Martin claim "tens of thousands of people" paid from $2000 to $4000 for the Personal RealGrowth treatment since 1994.
"Although Ashley and Martin did not agree with the ACCC’s concerns, it updated its patient contract terms in July 2017," the company says in a statement.
"Since then, Ashley and Martin’s patients have had a seven day 'opt out' period in their contracts which, to Ashley and Martin’s knowledge, is industry best practice in Australia."
The company has since contacted affected customers to offer them a refund.
The ACCC is seeking declarations that the terms are unfair and consequently
void, as well as an order for consumer redress and costs.
Update, 4 December: This article has been updated to include a comment from Ashley & Martin.