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Dentist price comparison allowed on the Internet
Dentists can continue to participate in Internet offers, where patients can compare prices for different dental treatments. This was decided by the Federal Constitutional Court in the judgment: 1 BvR 1287/08.
With the new ruling, the Federal Constitutional Court has strengthened competition between dentists. Dentists can continue to participate in web portals on which a price comparison for various types of dental treatment is offered. The federal judges ruled that such a ban would restrict the freedom of profession for dentists enshrined in the Basic Law. At the beginning of December, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the highest civil court, dismissed a lawsuit against a provider of dentist comparisons in another proceeding. Here, too, the judges could not find any reasons that would justify banning such websites.
The plaintiff for the procedure was a dentist in Baden-Württemberg, who had previously participated in such a price comparison on the Internet. Thereupon the responsible professional court gave the doctor a reference. The plaintiff successfully defended himself against this before the Supreme Constitutional Court and was awarded the verdict of Wednesday this week. The reference was removed with immediate effect. In the opinion of the Federal Constitutional Court, there are no reasons for the common good which could justify such a restriction of the professional activity of doctors. Participation in price comparison portals is compatible with the professional freedom of doctors, the judges said.
Such an Internet portal does not prevent patient protection. On the contrary: it "only makes it easier for the user to compare prices and initiate contacts". It is also not "evident that such use of the Internet shakes trust in dentists, nor that it could lead to patient uncertainty," said the Federal Constitutional Court.
How does the dentist price comparison work? On such portals, patients can obtain price information for different dentist treatments. Consumers use these services to save treatment costs, sometimes in the three-digit range. In order to obtain a comparison, the participants post a quote from their dentist online. The data of the practice and the doctor are anonymized. Now other dentists can submit a non-binding cost estimate based on the published cost estimate. If a treatment contract is concluded between the doctor and the patient, the dentist must pay a fee to the operator of the portal. This is usually based on the treatment costs as a percentage. As a rule, the dentist costs 20 percent. The patients mostly do not have to pay any fees and can even save costs for dental or jaw treatment. These are private treatments or treatments that are not covered by the statutory health insurance. (sb)
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Image: Tobias Bräuning / pixelio.de