GPC's advice over directory 'shocking' say campaigners

Advice - Practices charged for listings should 'pay up', says GPC.

GPs facing demands for thousands of pounds after signing up for a Swiss medical directory should pay up, the GPC has said.

Its legal advice conflicts with that of the Swiss government. No one is believed to have been taken to court for non-payment.

One GP who received demands for payment over seven months, wrote to the GPC to protest that it should 'not suggest we pay up and give in'.

Swiss firm Novachannel AG has written to a number of GPs, asking them to confirm their personal details for its Physicians and Therapists Guide. But the small print makes clear that those who reply are agreeing to pay for an advert.

GPs who signed up, believing the listing to be free, received letters threatening legal action, each demanding more money.

GPC officer Chris Finlan has written to LMCs that 'unfortunately, there is not much that can be done... The legal view is that this is a binding contract'.

'While our legal advice does not cover the law outside the UK, we believe there is a similar system for debt recovery there and... this company will pursue it.'

The Swiss government, however, says people have one year to annul the contract in writing. It launched a criminal investigation against the firm in 2005.

Jules Woodell, who runs a website detailing the directory firm's activities, said the GPC's advice was 'shocking'.

The firm 'has done this to 250,000 people and never brought a lawsuit', he said. 'That speaks volumes about what it thinks of the validity of its contract.'

The firm has been investigated by the European Parliament and banned from trading in Belgium, he noted.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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