Code Section

Business and Professions Code - BPC

DIVISION 2. HEALING ARTS [500 - 4999.129]

  ( Division 2 enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 399. )
  

CHAPTER 1. General Provisions [500 - 865.2]

  ( Chapter 1 enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 399. )
  

ARTICLE 6. Unearned Rebates, Refunds and Discounts [650 - 657]
  ( Article 6 added by Stats. 1949, Ch. 899. )

  
651.  

(a) It is unlawful for any person licensed under this division or under any initiative act referred to in this division to disseminate or cause to be disseminated any form of public communication containing a false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive statement, claim, or image for the purpose of or likely to induce, directly or indirectly, the rendering of professional services or furnishing of products in connection with the professional practice or business for which he or she is licensed. A “public communication” as used in this section includes, but is not limited to, communication by means of mail, television, radio, motion picture, newspaper, book, list or directory of healing arts practitioners, Internet, or other electronic communication.

(b) A false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive statement, claim, or image includes a statement or claim that does any of the following:

(1) Contains a misrepresentation of fact.

(2) Is likely to mislead or deceive because of a failure to disclose material facts.

(3) (A) Is intended or is likely to create false or unjustified expectations of favorable results, including the use of any photograph or other image that does not accurately depict the results of the procedure being advertised or that has been altered in any manner from the image of the actual subject depicted in the photograph or image.

(B) Use of any photograph or other image of a model without clearly stating in a prominent location in easily readable type the fact that the photograph or image is of a model is a violation of subdivision (a). For purposes of this paragraph, a model is anyone other than an actual patient, who has undergone the procedure being advertised, of the licensee who is advertising for his or her services.

(C) Use of any photograph or other image of an actual patient that depicts or purports to depict the results of any procedure, or presents “before” and “after” views of a patient, without specifying in a prominent location in easily readable type size what procedures were performed on that patient is a violation of subdivision (a). Any “before” and “after” views (i) shall be comparable in presentation so that the results are not distorted by favorable poses, lighting, or other features of presentation, and (ii) shall contain a statement that the same “before” and “after” results may not occur for all patients.

(4) Relates to fees, other than a standard consultation fee or a range of fees for specific types of services, without fully and specifically disclosing all variables and other material factors.

(5) Contains other representations or implications that in reasonable probability will cause an ordinarily prudent person to misunderstand or be deceived.

(6) Makes a claim either of professional superiority or of performing services in a superior manner, unless that claim is relevant to the service being performed and can be substantiated with objective scientific evidence.

(7) Makes a scientific claim that cannot be substantiated by reliable, peer reviewed, published scientific studies.

(8) Includes any statement, endorsement, or testimonial that is likely to mislead or deceive because of a failure to disclose material facts.

(c) Any price advertisement shall be exact, without the use of phrases, including, but not limited to, “as low as,” “and up,” “lowest prices,” or words or phrases of similar import. Any advertisement that refers to services, or costs for services, and that uses words of comparison shall be based on verifiable data substantiating the comparison. Any person so advertising shall be prepared to provide information sufficient to establish the accuracy of that comparison. Price advertising shall not be fraudulent, deceitful, or misleading, including statements or advertisements of bait, discount, premiums, gifts, or any statements of a similar nature. In connection with price advertising, the price for each product or service shall be clearly identifiable. The price advertised for products shall include charges for any related professional services, including dispensing and fitting services, unless the advertisement specifically and clearly indicates otherwise.

(d) Any person so licensed shall not compensate or give anything of value to a representative of the press, radio, television, or other communication medium in anticipation of, or in return for, professional publicity unless the fact of compensation is made known in that publicity.

(e) Any person so licensed may not use any professional card, professional announcement card, office sign, letterhead, telephone directory listing, medical list, medical directory listing, or a similar professional notice or device if it includes a statement or claim that is false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive within the meaning of subdivision (b).

(f) Any person so licensed who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. A bona fide mistake of fact shall be a defense to this subdivision, but only to this subdivision.

(g) Any violation of this section by a person so licensed shall constitute good cause for revocation or suspension of his or her license or other disciplinary action.

(h) Advertising by any person so licensed may include the following:

(1) A statement of the name of the practitioner.

(2) A statement of addresses and telephone numbers of the offices maintained by the practitioner.

(3) A statement of office hours regularly maintained by the practitioner.

(4) A statement of languages, other than English, fluently spoken by the practitioner or a person in the practitioner’s office.

(5) (A) A statement that the practitioner is certified by a private or public board or agency or a statement that the practitioner limits his or her practice to specific fields.

(B) A statement of certification by a practitioner licensed under Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 3000) shall only include a statement that he or she is certified or eligible for certification by a private or public board or parent association recognized by that practitioner’s licensing board.

(C) A physician and surgeon licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California may include a statement that he or she limits his or her practice to specific fields, but shall not include a statement that he or she is certified or eligible for certification by a private or public board or parent association, including, but not limited to, a multidisciplinary board or association, unless that board or association is (i) an American Board of Medical Specialties member board, (ii) a board or association with equivalent requirements approved by that physician and surgeon’s licensing board, or (iii) a board or association with an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approved postgraduate training program that provides complete training in that specialty or subspecialty. A physician and surgeon licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California who is certified by an organization other than a board or association referred to in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) shall not use the term “board certified” in reference to that certification, unless the physician and surgeon is also licensed under Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 1600) and the use of the term “board certified” in reference to that certification is in accordance with subparagraph (A). A physician and surgeon licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California who is certified by a board or association referred to in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) shall not use the term “board certified” unless the full name of the certifying board is also used and given comparable prominence with the term “board certified” in the statement.

For purposes of this subparagraph, a “multidisciplinary board or association” means an educational certifying body that has a psychometrically valid testing process, as determined by the Medical Board of California, for certifying medical doctors and other health care professionals that is based on the applicant’s education, training, and experience.

For purposes of the term “board certified,” as used in this subparagraph, the terms “board” and “association” mean an organization that is an American Board of Medical Specialties member board, an organization with equivalent requirements approved by a physician and surgeon’s licensing board, or an organization with an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approved postgraduate training program that provides complete training in a specialty or subspecialty.

The Medical Board of California shall adopt regulations to establish and collect a reasonable fee from each board or association applying for recognition pursuant to this subparagraph. The fee shall not exceed the cost of administering this subparagraph. Notwithstanding Section 2 of Chapter 1660 of the Statutes of 1990, this subparagraph shall become operative July 1, 1993. However, an administrative agency or accrediting organization may take any action contemplated by this subparagraph relating to the establishment or approval of specialist requirements on and after January 1, 1991.

(D) A doctor of podiatric medicine licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California may include a statement that he or she is certified or eligible or qualified for certification by a private or public board or parent association, including, but not limited to, a multidisciplinary board or association, if that board or association meets one of the following requirements: (i) is approved by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education, (ii) is a board or association with equivalent requirements approved by the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, or (iii) is a board or association with the Council on Podiatric Medical Education approved postgraduate training programs that provide training in podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery. A doctor of podiatric medicine licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California who is certified by a board or association referred to in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) shall not use the term “board certified” unless the full name of the certifying board is also used and given comparable prominence with the term “board certified” in the statement. A doctor of podiatric medicine licensed under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California who is certified by an organization other than a board or association referred to in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) shall not use the term “board certified” in reference to that certification.

For purposes of this subparagraph, a “multidisciplinary board or association” means an educational certifying body that has a psychometrically valid testing process, as determined by the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, for certifying doctors of podiatric medicine that is based on the applicant’s education, training, and experience. For purposes of the term “board certified,” as used in this subparagraph, the terms “board” and “association” mean an organization that is a Council on Podiatric Medical Education approved board, an organization with equivalent requirements approved by the California Board of Podiatric Medicine, or an organization with a Council on Podiatric Medical Education approved postgraduate training program that provides training in podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.

The California Board of Podiatric Medicine shall adopt regulations to establish and collect a reasonable fee from each board or association applying for recognition pursuant to this subparagraph, to be deposited in the State Treasury in the Podiatry Fund, pursuant to Section 2499. The fee shall not exceed the cost of administering this subparagraph.

(6) A statement that the practitioner provides services under a specified private or public insurance plan or health care plan.

(7) A statement of names of schools and postgraduate clinical training programs from which the practitioner has graduated, together with the degrees received.

(8) A statement of publications authored by the practitioner.

(9) A statement of teaching positions currently or formerly held by the practitioner, together with pertinent dates.

(10) A statement of his or her affiliations with hospitals or clinics.

(11) A statement of the charges or fees for services or commodities offered by the practitioner.

(12) A statement that the practitioner regularly accepts installment payments of fees.

(13) Otherwise lawful images of a practitioner, his or her physical facilities, or of a commodity to be advertised.

(14) A statement of the manufacturer, designer, style, make, trade name, brand name, color, size, or type of commodities advertised.

(15) An advertisement of a registered dispensing optician may include statements in addition to those specified in paragraphs (1) to (14), inclusive, provided that any statement shall not violate subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (e) or any other section of this code.

(16) A statement, or statements, providing public health information encouraging preventative or corrective care.

(17) Any other item of factual information that is not false, fraudulent, misleading, or likely to deceive.

(i) Each of the healing arts boards and examining committees within Division 2 shall adopt appropriate regulations to enforce this section in accordance with Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

Each of the healing arts boards and committees and examining committees within Division 2 shall, by regulation, define those efficacious services to be advertised by businesses or professions under their jurisdiction for the purpose of determining whether advertisements are false or misleading. Until a definition for that service has been issued, no advertisement for that service shall be disseminated. However, if a definition of a service has not been issued by a board or committee within 120 days of receipt of a request from a licensee, all those holding the license may advertise the service. Those boards and committees shall adopt or modify regulations defining what services may be advertised, the manner in which defined services may be advertised, and restricting advertising that would promote the inappropriate or excessive use of health services or commodities. A board or committee shall not, by regulation, unreasonably prevent truthful, nondeceptive price or otherwise lawful forms of advertising of services or commodities, by either outright prohibition or imposition of onerous disclosure requirements. However, any member of a board or committee acting in good faith in the adoption or enforcement of any regulation shall be deemed to be acting as an agent of the state.

(j) The Attorney General shall commence legal proceedings in the appropriate forum to enjoin advertisements disseminated or about to be disseminated in violation of this section and seek other appropriate relief to enforce this section. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the costs of enforcing this section to the respective licensing boards or committees may be awarded against any licensee found to be in violation of any provision of this section. This shall not diminish the power of district attorneys, county counsels, or city attorneys pursuant to existing law to seek appropriate relief.

(k) A physician and surgeon or doctor of podiatric medicine licensed pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) by the Medical Board of California who knowingly and intentionally violates this section may be cited and assessed an administrative fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) per event. Section 125.9 shall govern the issuance of this citation and fine except that the fine limitations prescribed in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 125.9 shall not apply to a fine under this subdivision.

(Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 385, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2012.)