Fears over online cut-price plastic surgery deals

Scalpel and a kidney dish
Image caption One advert gave people until midnight to make a purchase

A rise in online deals for cut-price breast enhancements and other plastic surgery has prompted warnings from doctors in Germany.

The deals, which often demand payment within 24 hours, involve customers buying a voucher which can then be used later for the operation.

The Association of Plastic Surgeons in Germany told the BBC it feared it was because some doctors were feeling the economic downturn and trying out tougher commercial tactics.

People who received vouchers as a gift might feel obliged to have surgery they didn't really want or need.


In Britain, the Advertising Standards Authority recently ruled against an advert which offered: "Today's deal: £1,999 instead of £5,000 for cosmetic surgery such as breast augmentation and rhinoplasty" - commonly known as boob or nose jobs.

The advert gave people until midnight that day to make the purchase.

The ASA decided that this pressure of time was "irresponsible".

Its judgement said: "We considered the very limited time in which consumers had to buy the voucher pressured consumers into making a decision to (to all intents and purposes) purchase cosmetic surgery."

Image caption Association of Plastic Surgeons in Germany: A patient doesn't have time to think twice

That advert was on a site run by Groupon, an American company which operates extensively on the web in Britain, Germany and other European countries.

Its British division said that people could always get their money back if they chose.

Indeed, it said, a quarter to a third of those who buy vouchers for plastic surgery in Britain end up not going through with the procedure and get a full refund.

The company said that full discussions with medical professionals were offered.

And the German division said that its offers were attractive and met the needs and desires of consumers.

It said that recently more and more doctors - what it called "exciting, high quality partners" - were interested in working with it to offer treatment, and this was good for consumers.

Clinics were vetted thoroughly to make sure they were high quality.

Sophisticated relationship

But the German Association of Plastic Surgeons said it was worried by the rise in these internet sales of vouchers for plastic surgery, and attributed it to doctors trying to drum up business.

It said its concern was medical rather than a simple fear of lower-priced competition.

The Association thought that the relationship between a plastic surgeon and patient needed to be unpressured by time so that the best treatment could be devised, or perhaps no treatment.

It was critical of a deadline for accepting the deal because, as its spokeswoman told the BBC, "a patient doesn't have time to think twice".

And it is worried by the rise in this kind of deal: "We see many, many voucher offers for plastic surgery.

"You need a sophisticated relationship between the doctor and patient", said the spokeswoman for the association. "Especially before Christmas, we don't think it's a good idea to give a voucher for plastic surgery. This is a decision you should think hard about".