Enforcement Notice issued to non-UK based cosmetic surgery providers to tackle irresponsible ads

The Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) has today issued an Enforcement Notice to cosmetic surgery providers based abroad, setting out the strict advertising rules in place that are designed to protect people, in particular young and other vulnerable audiences, from potential harm. CAP has also begun enhanced monitoring to identify and tackle irresponsible ads for cosmetic surgery procedures.

Over the last few years, more people have been looking to get procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation and ‘Brazilian butt lifts’ with practitioners or clinics based outside the UK. We‘ve seen an increase in ads targeting UK consumers for these services and, while some are following the rules, we’re also seeing too many examples that are not.

Cosmetic surgery is a serious decision and ads should reflect that. While many people travelling abroad for surgery will have a good experience, as with any procedure there’s always a chance that things can go wrong. Botched surgery can lead to significant, life-changing harms and, in worst case scenarios, death. Within our role and remit, we’re committed to ensuring ads for these services are responsible.  

That’s why we’re sending out this Enforcement Notice, telling clinics to get their houses in order. We won’t hesitate to impose sanctions against ads that break our rules. Ads must be responsible, and they mustn’t make any claims that can’t be backed up with sufficient evidence or use social pressure or timed offers to pressure people into getting surgery.

This action follows on from Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigations which have led to thirteen ads targeting people in the UK from foreign-based cosmetic surgery clinics being banned. The ads broke a number of rules, including:

  • failing to make potential risks clear
  • trivializing the decision to undergo surgery
  • making misleading claims around safety
  • and making misleading claims about the credentials of doctors

We’ve been working with regulatory partners both in the UK and abroad, including Türkiye where many UK nationals travel for treatment, to make it clear to advertisers what we expect, and we’ll continue to share information as we proceed.

Alongside the Notice, we’ll be conducting enhanced monitoring, using our Active Ad Monitoring system to find ads that may break our rules and to take action where they do. And we’re encouraging the public to do their research. While no surgery is risk free, there are particular risks that should be considered when thinking about travelling for surgery. You can find out more here.

Shahriar Coupal, Secretary of CAP, said:

“Every year, many people go abroad and have positive experiences undergoing cosmetic surgery. But as more companies are advertising to UK customers, we’re also seeing more examples of the rules being broken. This needs to stop.

“We don’t regulate the service these clinics offer, but we do regulate their ads when they target UK consumers. This Enforcement Notice makes it clear to advertisers that they need to ensure their ads are up to scratch. They need to follow our rules, or we’ll impose sanctions to protect audiences from their ads.”

Health Minister Maria Caulfield said:

“All cosmetic procedures carry risks and this is an important step in cracking down on irresponsible adverts aimed at vulnerable people in the UK.

“The new guidance will help ensure all adverts adhere to our strict advertising rules and clearly sign-post potential risks.

“I urge anyone considering a medical procedure abroad to research the standards and qualifications that apply in the country they are travelling to before making a decision.”

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