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Draft law exempts healthcare services from advertising ban

Dental advertising is prohibited at the moment.
Dental advertising is prohibited at the moment. Source: Sergio Santos/Creative Commons

The draft amendment to the Advertising Act proposes to consider relaxing or abolishing the ban on advertising of healthcare services, or maintaining the ban only on advertising of alternative medicine and non-medical treatment.

The draft opinion submitted for approval by Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) states that the ban on advertising healthcare services should be relaxed or abolished, as there is no clear understanding of the reason for the ban, and the operation of the provision in practice is questionable.

"In the event that it turns out that there is still a need to restrict the advertising of a healthcare service, an alternative to a ban would be to consider either specific restrictions on that service, or banning only so-called 'alternative medicine,' non-medical treatments, and advertising of other crossover services or products, or finding solutions to more effectively control such products," the draft reads.

The document goes on to say that, for example, advertising for artificial insemination is prohibited, but the purpose of this ban is not entirely clear. In addition, the prohibition does not work in practice, since according to Section 22(3) of the Advertising Act, the health care provider is allowed to disclose essentially all information about the service, provided that the healthcare provider's authorization number is included in the information about the health care provider. The Estonia Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), the Estonian Marketing Association and the Estonian Bar Association have pointed out the need to analyze the justification for the restriction.

The Advertising Act came into force in 2008. Since then, the only fundamental changes have been in the regulation of financial services advertising and alcohol advertising. In the meantime, the law as a whole has not been reviewed, nor has there been any assessment of the success of its implementation or its consistency with what is happening in society.

At the same time, the authors of the report believe that the market situation has changed significantly, for example, new channels and ways of advertising have emerged.

"Prior to the draft, input was received from the actors in the market who use the advertising law, namely the supervisory authorities that control compliance with the advertising legislation, as well as representative organizations of businesses that commission, carry out, and publish advertising," the report states.

The majority of concerns about the Advertising Act were raised by the TTJA and the Marketing Association.

In addition, the Tallinn City Government, the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities (AECM), the Estonian Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority (FSA), the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture, the Estonian Bar Association, the Estonian Association of Media Enterprises, the NGO FinanceEstonia, the Estonian Banking Association (EBA), Swedbank, bailiffs Elin Vilippus and Oksana Kuchmei, the Estonian Gaming Operator Association (EGOA), the Estonian Association of Small Publishers and the Estonian Alcohol Producers and Distillers Association (ATML) provided feedback on the draft.

The authors of the review concluded from the feedback that there are a large number of provisions in the Advertising Act that are unduly difficult to understand or implement in practice, as well as provisions that do not reflect the changed market situation.

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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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