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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:20 UK time, Monday, 20 June 2011

Botox

Botox is one of the beauty procedures offered on Groupon

Health officials have expressed concerns about recent offers for cut-price Botox and cosmetic surgery featured on the discount deal website Groupon.

The website which offers huge discounts on everything from days out to meals in restaurants has been criticised for also offering cosmetic surgery and procedures linked to a 24-hour deadline.

According to Forbes magazine Groupon is the "fastest growing company ever". It has websites in 47 countries and recent news reports about its plans to go public on the stock market have valued the company at around $30bn. So it's big news.

It uses collective buying power to offer heavily discounted daily deals in cities around the UK. Those interested need to buy within the allotted time frame and, if enough people purchase, the deal will be honoured and the payment will be processed. On its website Groupon boasts it has access to the “largest most desirable target audience”, which includes professional females.

But this way of selling has been deemed unsuitable for cosmetic procedures.

Concerns have been raised that people are being pressured to pay upfront for serious procedures before they have even had a consultation or a cooling-off period.

X-Ray has found adverts for Botox in a South Wales' dentist on offer as low as £45 and also an offer in Liverpool for £5,000 worth of cosmetic surgery including breast augmentation, reduced to £1,999. The deals were offered with a 24 hour deadline.

Sally Taber from the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service, who oversees the register of cosmetic injectable providers, Treatments You Can Trust, told X-Ray she was worried about the discounts offered, and the deadlines.

She said, “It’s not possible to do things for that price in a safe environment by an appropriately qualified surgeon.”

The ‘Good Medical Practice in Cosmetic Surgery’ by the Independent Healthcare Authority (IHAS) states “advertisements must not offer discounts linked to a deadline date for booking appointments or surgery or other date-linked incentives.”

The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales has also told X-Ray that it doesn't condone time-pressured sales and recognises that consumers should have an opportunity for proper reflection before undertaking treatment which could both cause a risk to their health and have a lasting impact on their lives.

There have also been concerns about the wording of some of the recent deals Groupon have offered including one which featured the word “Botox”.

Sally told us, “Groupon are going against what the Advertising Standards Authority says. Groupon are certainly breaking rules around Botox. Botox is a prescription only medicine and the word Botox should not be used in any advertisement.”

X-Ray spoke to Groupon users Rachael, Claire and Emma who told the programme they had all bought a number of deals from the website and agreed it was a clever model.

Emma said, “It's definitely tempting yeah, they will send you sort of three or four deals on an email and there's usually something there that takes your fancy.”

And Rachael who promotes deals through her blog agreed that as an impulse buyer it works for her because it panics her into buying.

She admitted she might consider buying cosmetic procedures discounted from the site if she thought she needed them, however Claire and Emma felt they would be concerned about buying procedures online.

And consultant plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon Mr Richard Karoo says there’s more to consider before buying upfront.

He told X-Ray that people should not be paying upfront for treatments or procedures before they have had consultation with their professionals.

He added, “The key thing is if you are a professional undertaking these procedures you shouldn’t need to advertise or sell yourself as a discount store with a voucher or a coupon type of system.”

Groupon has a promise that "nothing is more important to us than treating our customers well. If you ever feel like Groupon let you down, give us a call and we'll return your purchase – simple as that."

We contacted Groupon about the issues raised but they said they were not releasing any comments to the press at this time.

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