Authorities join forces to iron out wrinkles in medical cosmetology

Updated: Jun 7, 2023 China Daily Print
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A woman receives facial beauty treatment at a cosmetic clinic in Tianjin. TONG YU/CHINA NEWS SERIVCE

Administrative and judicial authorities are intensifying the fight against illegal activities in the field of medical cosmetology to ensure the healthy development of the sector.

Last month, eleven central departments issued a guideline on strengthening supervision of medical cosmetology to regulate the sector's development and protect consumer rights, which grew out of the findings of a nationwide operation conducted between September and February.

As early as 2017, multi-department crackdowns were already being undertaken to regulate the sector.

Between May 2017 and April 2018, seven central departments including the health department, public security and medical product administration carried out an operation targeting problems in the sector ranging from operations to the injection of substances such as sodium hyaluronate, collagen and botulinum toxin, as well as breaches of training and advertising. Some illegal medical devices, products and forms of plastic surgery were also targeted and suppressed.

Then between June 2021 and December 2021, eight central departments launched another nationwide operation to crack down on illegal services and the illegal manufacture and sale of drugs and medical devices, and investigated advertising and internet promotional material that also contravened the law.

In one typical case, part of the most recent operation, police in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, found that suspects had bought freeze-dried powder, bottle caps, fake packaging materials, labels and instructions, and then had teams packing and producing counterfeit versions of well-known brands of Botulinum Toxin, a substance widely used in medical cosmetology. They also hired agents and arranged for sales through institutions such as beauty salons. The police filed a case for investigation in September, and have since apprehended 20 suspects and seized over 500 bottles of counterfeit drugs and 1,000 examples of counterfeit packaging materials worth around 32 million yuan ($4.5 million). The case is currently under further investigation.

The State Taxation Administration, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate have joined efforts for the first time to regulate the industry, according to a guideline issued last month.

Qin Yong, general manager of Sichuan Zhongke Jingmei Hospital Investment, said that as governance of industry may include tax and criminal investigations, it was reasonable to include the three departments in the document.

The SPP and the SPC were already ruling on problems in the medical cosmetology industry before the guideline was issued. According to the SPP, procuratorates approved the arrest of 306 people for alleged criminal offenses, officially charged 381 and filed 838 public interest litigation cases between September and the end of March.

Procuratorates have also issued 465 procuratorial suggestions to administrative authorities since then to push forward the resolution of prominent issues affecting the public's rights and interests, the SPP said.

One typical case of consumer rights protection issued by the SPC on March 15 clarified that the Law on the Protection of Consumers' Rights and Interests can be applied to cases of medical cosmetology infringement.

In late April, the State Administration for Market Regulation issued a sample text for a Medical Cosmetology Consumer Service Contract to standardize the practice. It urged institutions to regulate marketing behavior and not create "appearance anxiety" through publicity materials.

The sample text reminds consumers of the complexity and uncertainty of medical cosmetology and encourages them to have balanced expectations for its effects.

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