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HG Alert: Cancer Treatment Claims Attract ACCC Interest - 28 May 2010

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recent action against Sunshine Coast cancer cure ‘guru’ Darryl Jones is a warning to all companies of the dangers of making misleading or deceptive claims when promoting goods or services to customers.

Earlier this year, the Federal Court ordered a temporary injunction against Jones in relation to the cancer treatment claims he was making. These court orders temporarily restrain Jones from making any cancer treatment claims unless he has first obtained written medical or scientific advice to support the claims.

Darryl Jones: “Cancer loves glucose”

The injunctions follow allegations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that Jones, the principal of the Darryl Jones Health Resolution Centre, had made misleading claims about his ability to successfully treat cancer patients on the Centre’s website and in his publication The Truth About Overcoming Cancer.

The allegations stem from statements made on the Centre’s website about its methodology for treating cancer and other life-threatening diseases “without dispensing pharmaceutical drugs, advocating radium therapy, surgery or harmful chemotherapy”. The Centre’s treatment advocated the elimination of glucose from a patient’s diet, undertaking resistance exercise and taking substantial doses of Vitamin B17. The home page of the Centre’s website boldly stated:

“Discover why practically every chronic modern-day illness and disease can be treated naturally and very effectively, without the use of radiation or chemotherapy!!!”

The ACCC argued that these claims (and others such as “cancer loves glucose”) amounted to a representation by Jones that excluding glucose from a patient’s diet was a treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Dr Raymond Snyder, the doctor who provided a report to the ACCC in response to Jones’ cancer treatment claims, said that there was no accepted scientific basis for such a claim.

Misleading and deceptive conduct

Businesses have an obligation under the Trade Practices Act 1974 not to engage in any conduct in business that is likely to mislead or deceive. A breach of this obligation can in some cases lead to a criminal conviction.

Court orders

Until further notice, Jones has been restrained from making any representations about the ability for cancer or any other medical condition to be successfully prevented or treated by any means, unless he has first obtained written medical or scientific advice certifying that the treatment is supported by reliable scientific evidence or expert medical opinion.

Jones was also ordered to disclose details of the patients he has ‘treated’ and all of his publications regarding cancer treatment, and to prominently publish details of the court orders on his website.

Ordinarily, such disclosure orders are not made until the Court determines that the person concerned has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. The Court noted that it was not making such a finding at this stage, but that considering the seriousness of the matter and the high level of public interest surrounding the case, it was appropriate to take these actions at this early stage.

The lesson for all businesses is that a cautious approach should be taken when promoting goods and services to customers to avoid falling foul of the Trade Practices Act.

For more information about misleading and deceptive conduct, please contact HopgoodGanim’s Competition and Trade Practices team.