Guide to the Fraudulent Mediums Act

We are indebted to The Druid Network (TDN) for the following article, which is reproduced by permission.

N.B. Please bear in mind that the following advice refers to the legal system of England & Wales. While the legal situation in Scotland is roughly similar, it is maintained by different laws and a different court system.

New Consumer Protection Regulations – How They Will Affect Healers, Readers, Psychics and Mediums

A number of people have got in touch with The Druid Network recently about the changes in the Fraudulent Mediums Act, particularly with concerns for where it affects Druids using divination in their work. Here is our initial response. (February 2008)

On 6 April 2008, Consumer Protection Law is changing in the UK. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2007 (known as the 'CPRs') will come into force. This change is due to an EU Directive designed to standardise consumer protection law across Europe.
The CPRs will affect any business or individual that sells products or services to consumers rather than to other businesses. Much of the existing UK legislation will be amended or repealed at the same time, including the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 and others.

Note : The final version of the CPRs have not yet been published and so the following is based on the draft Regulations and guidance given by the Office of Fair Trading.

In essence, the CPRs will do three things. They impose a duty on all businesses dealing with consumers not to trade unfairly and not to use misleading or aggressive practices. They also outlaw completely certain practices.

Clearly, it will be important to deal openly and fairly with clients but there are some aspects that will particularly affect healers, readers, psychics and mediums.

False Claims of Cures

One of the practices that are banned completely is “falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illness, dysfunction or malformations”.

There is a real danger that this prohibition could be used by those who oppose alternative and complimentary therapies. Just how far it will be allowed to curb such therapies will depend largely on how the prosecuting authorities and courts decide to interpret the new law.

In the meantime, healers should particularly be slow to make definitive claims in their literature, consultations or healing sessions that they can cure an ailment. It would be far better to simply set out how their treatment might help the client, what it can do, what it can’t do and what it is likely or not likely but possible to achieve. A claim such as “this treatment might help your condition” would be far better than a claim such as “this treatment will cure you.” The latter is likely to be illegal unless you can prove that it will provide the complete cure you suggest.

Misleading or Aggressive Practices

This outlaws the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence such that it could impair a client’s freedom of choice in such a way that they are more likely to use your services or pay more for them.

Clearly, this is designed to curb particularly aggressive or misleading sales techniques. It is important to realise, however, that, as a healer, reader, psychic or medium, you are often put in a position of power when it comes to clients, especially those who are ill or emotionally vulnerable. This might make you open to accusations of undue influence. It is important therefore that clients have complete freedom of choice as to whether to use your services. The idea of ‘informed consent’ is likely to be important (and is good practice in any event): make sure your client knows exactly what you offer, what outcomes are likely, what outcomes are unlikely but possible, what the alternatives are and what it will cost.

Not to Trade Unfairly

This is a ‘catch-all’ provision that prohibits practices that are unreasonable, dishonest or done in bad faith which are likely to make the typical client of such services more likely to use your services or pay more for them. Again, the ‘informed consent’ approach is likely to be the best way forward.

Conclusion

The new Regulations are designed to standardise unfair trade practices across Europe but will tighten up the law in many areas. It is too early to see exactly what this will mean in practice: we will need to wait for the final version of the Regulations to be published and to see how the prosecuting authorities and courts view things.

Certainly, there are groups that are against activities such as alternative and complimentary therapies, readers, psychics and mediums and they can be expected to put pressure on the prosecuting authorities to take action.

It is important to realise that these Regulations are not designed to outlaw these therapies and readings but are more focused on the way they are marketed and what happens at the point of sale. It will be important not to make exaggerated claims as to the efficacy of healing techniques or to restrict the choice of a client when they decide whether to use your services or what to pay for them. It may be that the idea of informed consent, much used now in the medical profession, will be the way forward. It remains to be seen whether it would be advisable to obtain written consent to treatments but certainly some sort of record of what advice was given should be kept.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law. Legal advice should always be sought to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation.

TDN (and the Pagan Federation) accepts no liability for any adverse consequences arising from reliance on this article in place of getting legal advice.

© 2008 The Druid Network

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