A leaflet for Ability Back Centres seen on 22 March 2023 featured text “About Dr Tony Parker – graduated as a chiropractor in the 1980s, the ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ degree…For approaching a year, practiced as a ‘back pain doctor’” and “Dr Tony of AbilityBack has improved the lives of over 17,000 families since the 1980s”. The back of the ad featured a section titled “Ability Back Centres” with an image of a man accompanied by text stating “Dr Tony Parker D.C., M.I.C.A Doctor of Chiropractic, Clinical Trainer & Posture and Health Specialist”.
The General Chiropractic Council, who understood that Tony Parker was no longer a registered chiropractor, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Tony Parker did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Tony Parker’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in the future.
We considered that in ads for healthcare practitioners, consumers were likely to interpret the title “Dr”, or variations on it, to mean that the practitioner held a general medical qualification. Chiropractors were healthcare professionals regulated by statute, and we understood their governing body, the General Chiropractor Council (GCC), allowed chiropractors to use the courtesy title “Doctor of Chiropractic”, sometimes abbreviated to “DC” or “DoC”. Where healthcare professionals who were regulated by statutory bodies were permitted to use a courtesy title which incorporated the term “Dr”, we considered that in order to avoid misleading consumers such titles should be clearly and prominently qualified with a statement making clear that the title was a courtesy title only, and that the practitioner did not hold a general medical qualification.
We therefore considered that consumers would be likely interpret the use of “About Dr Tony Parker – graduated as a chiropractor in the 1980s, the ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ degree”, “back pain doctor” and “Dr Tony” along with “Dr Tony Parker D.C., M.I.C.A Doctor of Chiropractic, Clinical Trainer” featured throughout the ad, to mean that Tony Parker was a current practicing Chiropractor, who held a general medical qualification.
We understood, however, that Mr Parker was not currently registered with the GCC as a practising Chiropractor and therefore was not entitled to use the term ‘Dr’ as a courtesy title. We had also not seen any evidence that he held a general medical qualification. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.7 (Unreasonable delay), 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.9 (Qualifications).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Tony Parker not to claim that he was a registered Chiropractor or that he held a general medical qualification when that was not the case. We referred the matter to CAP’s Compliance team.