The violations were highlighted by Taiwan's Consumers Foundation, which opposes the over-commercialisation of medical treatment.
Although aesthetic clinics, as medical institutions, are allowed to advertise, they are prohibited by law from attracting patients through 'improper' marketing methods such as discounts, coupons, lotteries and gifts. Doing so is a breach of Article 61 of the Medical Care Act in Taiwan, which imposes a fine of up to US$8,348 (NT$250,000).
“We are concerned that price competition will compromise the quality of the treatment,” foundation secretary-general Lei Li-fen (雷立芬) told the Taipei Times.
Meanwhile, Article 84 of the Medical Care Act states that “non-medical care institutions shall not advertise for medical care”. The foundation said three online shopping platforms have been publicly advertising aesthetic-medicine treatments.
Random spot-checks in March revealed that at least eight clinics were selling treatments in discounted packages or buy-one-get-one-free offers on three online shopping sites: ET Mall, U-Mall and Momo Shop.
One advertisement for Ariel Medical Beauty Centre promoted a whitening treatment by listing a significant (95 per cent) price difference between the original market price and that on the site.
The other seven offending clinics are Physia Biomedical & Cosmetic Policlinic, Merrier Beauty Institute, Daren Medical Clinic, Taipei Show Chwan Cosmetic Clinic, Asia Medical & Aesthetic Group, Carole Clinic and Paria Group.
The foundation added that the advertisements present an oversimplified image of medical procedures. Consumers who bought these vouchers for treatment found it difficult to book actual appointments at the clinics, and are not notified of potential risks and side-effects when disclosure should be given, such as for radio-frequency wrinkle removal treatments.
“All of these ads lack a scientific basis or evidence of the treatments’ effectiveness,” Lei added.
Such ads used to appear on local group-buying websites, but when Taipei authorities cracked down on them in April last year, major aesthetic clinics began transferring their adverts to social-networking sites or their official websites.