21 August 2020


In 'Unhealthy Practice: Understanding the ACCC’s action against HealthEngine' (2019) 16(6) Privacy Law Bulletin 103 I considered egregious misbehaviour by the HealthEngine service (noted eg here and here) which I highlighted in preceding years. 

Tellingly, that misbehaviour was addressed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under the Australian Consumer Law rather than by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

The Federal Court in Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v HealthEngine Pty Limited [2020] FCA 1203 has now ordered that 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. 

 HealthEngine admitted that between 30 April 2014 and 30 June 2018 it gave non-clinical personal information, such as names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, of over 135,000 patients to third party private health insurance brokers without adequately disclosing this to consumers. HealthEngine earned over $1.8 million from its arrangements with private health insurance brokers during that period. 

In what we can contextualise as fake news HealthEngine 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 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.

In Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Service Seeking Pty Ltd [2020] FCA 1040 the Federal Court of Australia has found that Seeking Service engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in operating a website and mobile application that served as platform for services. The company was prohibited for three years from publishing reviews without written express consent of person providing a review and was ordered to pay a fine of $600,000.