Regulation Matters 2018 - Issue 1

Can I discount my services?

Scenario 1. Discounted Services for Start-up Private Practice

Luna is an RD starting a private practice. To build her clientele, she advertises a “back to school special” offering a 25% discount for initial consultations booked during the month of September. Is Luna permitted to offer this type of discount to prospective clients?
Luna can offer reduced fees, pro-bono (free) services or “specials” as described in this scenario. However, she should be honest and transparent with prospective clients about the conditions under which the discounts are offered. It would not be appropriate for Luna to try and recoup the amount of the discount by charging a higher fee for follow-up sessions or other services she provides to clients.

Dietitians must always be professional and ethical in her advertising. They are required to comply with the Canadian Competition Bureau’s requirements restricting misleading advertising. The Competition Bureau prohibits making any false or misleading statements for the purpose of promoting a product or a business. There must be sufficient advertising information to allow clients (consumers) to make informed choices.

Scenario 2. Reduced Rate for Bundled Services

Leroy has been seeing a client in his private practice for a few years. The client has recently encountered some financial hardships but wants to keep seeing Leroy for follow-up sessions to keep on track. Leroy offers the client a reduced rate for the next three follow-up appointments if he purchases them as a package. Are there any concerns with this billing practice?
If a client in need of dietetic services is experiencing financial hardship, dietitians may provide services at a discounted rate or bundles services, as described in this scenario. In the interest of transparency and clarity, the conditions of the discounted rates and packaged sessions should be explained to the client. What exactly is included in the package? What are the payment options? Is there a refund if sessions in the bundle are not all used? This will help the client make an informed decision about treatment options available.

When dietitians recommend a package of sessions to a client, the offer should be based on the client’s need only, and not on a desire for financial gain; the latter would be placing the dietitian in a conflict of interest. The conflict would be that the dietitian’s desire for extra income would be served rather than client-centred care. It is considered professional misconduct for dietitians to practice the profession while in a conflict of interest.

For more information on conflict of interest, refer to the College’s Standards & Guidelines for Conflict of Interest.