Dr Ken Harvey, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, School of Public Health, La Trobe University, would like some questions answered about the promotion of complementary medicines on the web:
“The Australian has reported my complaints to authorities over the promotion of complementary medicines on “liverdoctor.com” by Dr Sandra Cabot; real name Dr Sandra McRae, a NSW registered medical practitioner.
Dr McRae responded that the complaint had been rejected by Australian authorities as being outside their jurisdiction because the website on which they appeared was subject to US rather than Australian regulations.
The domain history of “liverdoctor.com” shows that Dr McRae was listed as the administrative and technical contact for this web site until she changed this to US personnel after receiving my first complaint. She remains a medical practitioner registered in NSW, she continues to promote herself and her products using her Australian credentials and her web server and name servers remain in Australia.
The same complaint was sent to two different bodies: the industry Complaint Resolution Committee (CRC) of the Complementary HealthCare Council of Australia and the independent Complaint Resolution Panel (CRP) who administer the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. Both bodies were involved because the complaint involved both the web site and information on product labels.
The CRC dismissed the complaint because they believed the matter was now the responsibility of US authorities. The CRP referred the matter to the Regulatory Compliance Unit of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). I have yet to hear if they have accepted jurisdiction over this
Regardless, the different response received from two complaint bodies dealing with the same issue highlights the current uncertainty over who has jurisdiction over information on web sites that are alleged to breach national laws.
Is it the country where the web site is based, the country where the domain is registered, or the country of the person actively promoting themselves and their products?
Can anyone cast more light on these matters?”
No, I can’t. But it would make sense that if the person making the false claims or misleading advertising lived in Australia, then it should come under Australian jurisdiction. Where the website is should be irrelevant because it is the content of the website that is allegedly breaking the law. This is presumably is under the control of Drs Cabot/McRae.
“Regardless, the different response received from two complaint bodies
dealing with the same issue highlights the current uncertainty over who
has jurisdiction over information on web sites that are alleged to
breach national laws.”
I don’t think this is a jurisdictional issue at all, but simply a case of
no-one wanting to touch the issue with a barge-pole.
From the 1980s onwards, governments in many countries ( esp the Anglo world)
gave a very clear message to regulatory authorities that they should not
pursue their respective mandates by intervening to dampen the economic
freedom of business but should instead sit on their hands, hear nothing, see
nothing , do nothing.
A world-wide series of crises, grand swindles and scandals seems in no way
to have disturbed this philosophy.
Its ‘Business As Usual’.
If anyone thinks that the GFC ( global financial crisis) will cause
governments to reconsider the policy of ignoring carpetbaggers, rogues,
paper-trail miscreants, diet-pill scammers, penis-enlargement spammers, ponzi
schemers, con-artists and other white-collar criminals, then they are sorely
Instead we are now seeing all these people handsomely rewarded with more
bail-out bucketfuls of taxpayers money than they could ever have swindled
from the public in their wildest dreams. Billions of government dollars
handed out to anyone who can prove that he is a bone fide slime-bag.
And the very same people who oversaw, participated in and benefited from
creating the mega economic collapse have been put in charge of distributing
The ‘ smartest guys in the room’ at Enron only escaped with tens of
millions of dollars in golden parachutes- they must be green with envy.
In Oz, we are to see the property developers being the key recipients of
bail-out money.- The wealthiest and dodgiest sectional interest in the
country to get a leg up from the poor. ( trickle up effect)
Now, more than ever, with the deepest recession beginning, governments of
all stripes everywhere will be too terrified to let any regulators do any
regulating at all.
The golden age of business regulation ( such as it was) has come and gone.
For the for-seeable future, the active regulation of business is dead in the
The only questions which governments are prepared to ask Business at the
moment are- “How much money can we give you?” and ” How can we fast-track
So don’t expect Dr Cabot alias McRae to be de-registered any time soon. More
likely than not ( if recent history is anything to go by) she will be given
a public service award and a well-remunerated position on a health
department advisory board instead.
Perhaps even a professorship in
‘liver-science’ at a distinguished university could be on the cards?
I would have thought a complaint of unprofessional conduct to the NSW
Medical Registration Board would have to be investigated.
Ironically, a complaint was sent to the NSW Medical Board on 23 Oct 2008.
They referred it to the Health Care Complaints Commission who in turn referred it to the NSW Office of Fair Trading.
On 23 Jan 2009 I was notified that the Office of Fair Trading had referred the complaint to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Subsequently, I have heard no more, despite asking the TGA Advertising and Export Section and the Regulatory Compliance Unit whether or not the TGA accepts jurisdiction.
My past experience with the TGA has been that, citing “commercial-in-confidence” considerations, they tell complainants nothing and publicise nothing; all very convenient for those who are complained about!
I have now referred the matter to Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, who has responsibility for the TGA.
I might add that those snake oil sales people always seem to get away with it. Anyone for longer lasting s_x?