Phil Hall explains why self-regulation is more effective than an enforced system

I recently took part in a discussion at a national cosmetic surgery clinic on what is ethical and what is not when marketing and promoting that profession.

Touched-up photographs to make someone look better than they are after surgery is clearly wrong, as is exaggerating the benefit of a treatment – and there are question marks over the have-one-boob-done-get-one-free sort of promotion.

But by and large, I think we have the most correct marketing environment in the world in the UK. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will stop organisations advertising exaggerated claims and is extremely proactive in its field.

That said, I do feel the rules could be tightened up. Newspapers are about to face fines of up to £1 million should they transgress in an extreme way under the new Royal Charter agreed by the political parties (and not by the papers!).

Why should advertisers who make false claims not face similar fines? After all, they are effectively creating misery by fraudulently claiming they can fix a problem someone might have, when in fact they can’t?

The difficulty these days with enforcing anything is the internet. Companies and organisations can advertise on that platform from almost anywhere, thus the authorities will find it impossible to enforce any kind of penalty in a consistent way.

The only solution to this is the professional bodies themselves. The organisations that manage the cosmetic surgery industry must insist on standards and take action against those who do not meet that criteria. If the public knew that organisations or individuals who carry an affiliation to a professional body that is audited and run professionally, must maintain a high standard or be dropped, it will stop the cowboy firms operating.

Self-regulation can often be so much more effective than any rule book laid down by the establishment.

Phil Hall was previously editor of the News of the World and is now the chairman of PHA Media. Phil writes a regular column for

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