Alberta dentists sue association over 'unbelievably restrictive' advertising rules

Several Alberta dentists have filed a lawsuit alleging they’re being treated unfairly by their own association over the issue of "unbelievably restrictive" marketing and advertising rules.

'They don’t want me to say anything other than my name, my address, my hours of operations,' dentist says

A group of Alberta dentists is suing their governing body, alleging its restrictions on advertising are too restrictive. (CBC)

Several Alberta dentists have filed a lawsuit alleging they're being treated unfairly by their own governing body.

The dentists are suing the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC), alleging that restrictions on marketing and advertising violate their rights.

The group is applying to have the suit certified as a class action.

Larry Stanleigh, one of three Alberta dentists behind the lawsuit, says the rules unfairly prevent dentists from posting information on their websites such as patient testimonials or personal experience.

"I served our country in the Canadian Forces and I'm very proud of my service. I was told that I'm not allowed to say that I served in the Canadian Forces because that is a potential claim of superiority," he said.

Stanleigh was also forced to remove references to the type of equipment used in his office, his qualifications in niche areas of dentistry and testimonials from his patients.

In their statement of claim, the dentists argue that advertising regulations contained in ADAC's code of ethics violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression.

The regulations also violate the federal Competition Act, the suit alleges.

ADAC says it disagrees with the allegations and plans to mount a vigorous defence. It has yet to file a statement of defence.

"Our code of ethics was put into place by our members and government so everybody's agreed to it, and so if one doesn't abide by those then we do have to investigate and take action where needed," said association spokesman Harry Ames.

But Stanleigh says ADAC has gone overboard, imposing "unbelievably restrictive" standards on advertising and levying punitive fines, including suspended licenses.

ADAC "conducted its affairs in relation to the advertising restrictions in an arbitrary, capricious, high-handed and arrogant manner," the suit alleges.

The dentists are seeking damages in an amount to be determined by the court.

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