A breast imaging company has been found guilty of false and misleading conduct after it promoted its service as an alternative to mammograms.
The firm’s sole director, shareholder and business manager Joanne Firth has also been deemed an accessary.
The Federal Court action against Safe Breast Imaging, which operated a breast imaging service using a multi-frequency electrical impedance mammograph (MEM) device between 2009 and 2011, was instigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The court in Perth heard on Tuesday that the company usually charged a customer $145 to take images of customer’s breasts using the MEM device, interpret those images, conduct a questionnaire, and provide a report with an information package including a frequently asked questions document.
The ACCC claimed the company suggested that using the MEM device could determine if a person had breast cancer, assess the risk of cancer, be a substitute for mammography, and that doctors were involved.
The misleading representations were made on the company’s website, an online video, pamphlets and a Google Adwords campaign.
Safe Breast Imaging denied providing an assurance to anyone that they did not have breast cancer and accepted that doing so would misrepresent the nature of the service.
They claimed the service was the starting point for many women “on their breast health journey”, and therefore, denied suggestions they offered “breast cancer screening services”.
They also denied promoting their service as a substitute for mammography.
“The respondents say they have never received any formal complaints from any clients, prospective clients, health practitioners, regulatory bodies or government authorities,” Justice Michael Laurence Barker said.
But Justice Barker concluded that the advertising created the “erroneous impression” that Safe Breast Imaging could provide a comparable service to mammography.
“A reasonable hypothetical consumer would be led to believe that Safe Breast Imaging’s breast imaging is comparable to mammography, but without the limitations associated with mammography, and that they could choose to have that service as a substitute for mammography,” he said.
The matter will return to court in June.
The ACCC is seeking injunctions, an order for publication to assist in remedying the contraventions, pecuniary penalties and an order disqualifying Firth from managing corporations.
Last week, the court found that another breast imaging provider, Breast Check, had made similar false and misleading representations about its services.