EZ Smile pays penalty for alleged misleading statements on its website

2 November 2020

Australian-based cosmetic tooth straightening company EZ Smile Pty Ltd, which sells teeth straightening services using clear dental aligners direct to consumers through its website, has paid a penalty of $12,600 after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued an infringement notice for an alleged false or misleading representation made on EZ Smile’s website in relation to the involvement of Australian orthodontists in its teeth straightening services. 

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) and the Australian Society of Orthodontists (ASO) raised their considerable concerns about the website statements in December 2019 in letters to both the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), which is responsible for the regulation of Australia's registered health practitioners, and the ACCC, saying that the emergence of direct-to-consumer (DTC) orthodontic services (DTC Orthodontic Services) in Australia posed a threat to the health and safety of dental patients. 

They went onto to say that statements such as the now-removed ones on EZ Smiles’ website led consumers to believe that DTC aligners are supplied with the involvement of qualified Australian-registered orthodontists or registered dental professionals when that is in fact not the case and it is more likely that consumers will either be seen by unqualified retail workers or simply have the items sent straight to their home for a DIY service. 

Further, the ADA and ASO noted that there is no provision in the DTC model for any kind of follow-up care including ongoing adjustment of the aligners, in-person clinical examination or radiographic assessment of the teeth, surrounding bone, dental tissues, muscles of mastication, facial soft tissue profile or temporomandibular joints before, during or after treatment. 

If overseas experience is any guide, this has the potential to result in serious damage to patients’ dental health. 

The statements on the EZ Smiles website, which were removed in April 2020, stated that “EZ SMILE PTY LTD is an Australian based cosmetic tooth straightening company based in Sydney, Australia” ... “the orthodontists in our lab will need to take a closer look at your teeth … " and “your aligners are made in our clinical lab by experienced orthodontic professionals’. 
 
The ACCC alleges that EZ Smile made a false or misleading representation on its website that its teeth straightening treatment plans were supplied by Australian-based dental professionals, including orthodontists registered in Australia, or those otherwise subject to Australian health regulation standards, when the company's clear dental aligners are in fact manufactured in China. 

In reference to the payment of the penalty, which are issued when the ACCC “believe a person orbusiness has contravened certain consumer protection laws”, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court had this to say: 

“We allege this representation was likely to mislead consumers and limit the extent to which they could make a fully informed decision about using EZ Smile’s services,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said. 

“This is a relatively new market, and this enforcement action and resulting penalty should serve as awarning to other businesses in this market that it is unacceptable to mislead consumers.”