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Several patients have reported they have been given 'medical advice' by the retail store assistants when visiting the Footsolutions stores in Melbourne.
When asked about their medical conditions, the 'customer' has been advised not to continue with their prescribed medical treatment, and instead have been given 'alternate' advice relating to their medical condition. As blatant as "No, don't do that, buy this from us and treat it that way."
This confusing medical advice given to patients is, apart from being mis-guided, uninformed and frankly wrong, it is illegal.
A complaint has been made to the ACCC.
Does anyone else have experience with this unauthorised practise by retailers?
apart from being mis-guided, uninformed and frankly wrong, it is illegal.
...this is the issue. Is it illegal to provide advice about a health condition?
In most states/territories there are provisions in legislation for "holding out" to be a registered health practitioner, of whatever denomination. I am sure you provide advice on medical problems every day in your practice - but you are not holding yourself out to be a medical practitioner! A pharmacy assistant is not a registered health professional, but they can advise on the best cold n' flu medication for you. If it is contrary to the advice of a GP, and no courtesy call is made, then it could be harmful to business and a risk exists regarding liability in an adverse event.
However, if the salesperson in question does not purport to be a podiatrist, physio or medical practitioner - then the question arises as to whether the advice is illegal. I doubt it. I suspect in law, anyone can 'suggest' anything to anyone.
However, if there is an adverse outcome as a result of that advice, the potential for civil liability then becomes the route of recourse for the client/patient.
More importantly, they will no doubt damage their reputation with the local podiatric community.
The ACCC has no jurisdiction on these issues, they simple investigate instances of anitcompetitive behaviour. It is really a health practitioner Board matter.
***************************************** Remember, it's just a foot.
'Holding out', proporting to be a qualified practitioner is one thing, infringing upon criminal law, however when conveying to be a specialist in footwear and orthotics for medically-related problems certainly verges upon infringment of civil liberty. Particularly when this advice is being given in exchange for money - and the sale of related products / orthotics due to these medical claims may result in pain, suffering and physical damage.
Unless a disclaimer is given at the time, clearly stating advice being given 'is not of a medical basis and the person should consult a health professional for any medical concern they may have', then yes, Civil Law dictates it Advice of a medical nature which is not of the standard emparted by a registered professional is potentially neglegent in Duty of Care - any resulting pain, discomfort, stress or physical damage may then result in the retailer and the shop assistant being sued under civil law... and this does happen.
Awareness of 'orthotics' and their effectiveness within the community, is important to the Podiatric Profession here in Australia.
The inappropriate and inexperienced use of orthotic therapy by the uninformed has a negative impact on anyone reading this thread.
I understand your frustration, and I have shared similar experiences over the years with over-zealous shoe stores and similar retail operations.
However, I still think there is a lvery ow liklihood of this being a criminal matter.
Anyone without formal qualifications can set up shop and claim to be an expert in biomechanics, shoes and orthoses. I am aware of no law that prevents this.
Unfortunately, with the many changes to Podiatrists Acts across Australia over the last decade, we as a profession have only got a "title" to hang on to. There are very few defined scopes of practice that are now restricted to certain professions. Orthotics are not on of these as far as I am aware.
Your best recourse would be to write to the Podiatrists Registration Board to see if there has been any breach of local laws, but (frustratingly for you) I doubt that there is...
***************************************** Remember, it's just a foot.
This is a matter that directly reflects and affects those in my position. Our certifiying bodies and their inclusive ethical standards are very clear in their statements that C Peds are not to diagnose and are only to treat with custom devices only under a valid prescription.
The problem comes two-fold. One is that the majority of staffers in these retail comfort/pedorthic shops are not certified professionals. Although these individuals get greater on the job experience and education when compared to the average shoe retailer, they are still not properly educated or certified. In other words, they are very eager, but potentially injurious. The other problem is that the majority of shops in this type of retail concept are encouraged by their franchisers to sell as many "custom" inserts as possible. These provide a far greater margin to both the dealer and franchiser than footwear, and are sometimes presented as panaceas.
It is my hope that the fairly recent inclusion of reputable certifying bodies such as ABC will help stem questionable activities among the growing tide of "mall medicine".
__________________ Jeremy Long C Ped
Smoky Mountain Foot Clinic
We had footsolutions come into our 4th year graduate jobs expo. They seemed to be a retail orientated store. i think they even sponsor a few scholarships at Latrobe uni. they stated they had a few podiatry students working there, so im not sure if it was the students offering out there advice or who else it may have been. The man who came in and discussed positions for students to work there is a C.Ped. Other than that it seems like they really want to increase the amount of stores in which they have. Just thought i would add that to the discussion.
As a podiatry student who had worked in a specialist sports store for a number of years before studying podiatry I have some appreciation of both sides of this issue. I am lucky in that our store has close links with an excellent podiatrist to whom we often send customers who need detailed advice / assessment / treatment.
I have seen and heard of plenty of over zealous well meaning people in other stores go beyond the mark in terms of advice but the most concerning for me is the negative image of podiatrists in biomechanics portrayed by some of the technical training we received from 3rd parties, who had a product to sell
Developing good 2 way relationships between stores and professionals has, in my experience, led to better outcomes for customers, and more customers for the store sent in by podiatrists who realize we speak the same language. It's a shame more stores don't seem to share this philosophy.
I am ashamed but proud at the same time to say that I too used to work for one of these stores. Mostly proud that I left. Everything you hear is true. I could no longer in good conscience peddle their wears any longer. They operate a policy which depends on confusing and bullying the 'customer' into parting with cash. I worked there as a student and would often tell customers, quietly, to go see their NHS podiatrist. I was put under increasing pressure to look for problems that didn't exist and convince people they had an 'alignment' problem or high arches just to get them to buy insoles which were nothing more than blank foot beds. Again and again I would hear the owner say that they didn't give medical advice only to hear him explain 5 minutes later, in great medical detail what the customer should do next. They're treading a fine line in these stores, and in the process are ruining the reputation of hard working, properly qualified podiatrists everywhere. The store I worked for had then over 250 stores world wide. I was drawn to it initally because I believed that what they had was a good thing. Offering deeper, wider, accessible shoes for those with deformities or other medical conditions such as diabetes. I had to leave in the end after not having sold a single thing for months. The store is still thriving though, but i cringe at the the thought of the damage they are doing to podiatrists locally.