In ACCC v HealthEngine Pty Ltd  FCA 1203 (20 August 2020), the Federal Court of Australia (“the court”) has, according to an Australian Competition and Consumer (“ACCC”) Media Release “ordered that HealthEngine Pty Ltd (‘HealthEngine’) pay $2.9 million in penalties for engaging in misleading conduct in relation to the sharing of patient personal information to private health insurance brokers and publishing misleading patient reviews and ratings.”
As noted in HealthEngine's, the court determined that the platform breached the Australian Consumer Law in its delivery of two historical services – the Practice Recognition System and private health insurance comparison services.
Thereported that after the fine was handed down, HealthEngine co-founder and Chief Executive Marcus Tan issued an apology on the company's website, with Mr Tan saying:
In the, HealthEngine describes itself as “Australia’s largest online health marketplace, which is used by over a million consumers every month”.
The platform provides a booking system for patients and an online health care directory that lists over 70,000 health practices and practitioners in Australia. The directory allows patients to search for and book appointments with health practitioners. Up until June 2018, consumers could also access reviews from patients about the quality and services of health practitioners.
The ACCC began investigating HealthEngine inand subsequently launched legal against the against online health booking platform, claiming that “between 31 March 2015 to 1 March 2018, HealthEngine manipulated the patient reviews it published, and misrepresented to consumers why HealthEngine did not publish a rating for some health practices”.
The court found that over five years, HealthEngine gave non-clinical personal information of more than 135,000 patients to third party private health insurance brokers without adequate disclosure - earning the company more than $1.8 million from its arrangements with private health insurers in that time period.
Yates J said at [para 22]:
Commenting on the penalties handed down, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a:
HealthEngine also admitted that between 31 March 2015 and 1 March 2018, it did not publish around 17,000 reviews and edited around 3,000 reviews to remove negative aspects, or to embellish them. HealthEngine also admitted that it misrepresented to consumers the reasons why it did not publish a rating for some health or medical practices.
HealthEngine responded in a Media Release:
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ACCC v HealthEngine Pty Ltd  FCA 1203 (20 August 2020)
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