- Lawyer, Director of A.G.P.F.
A contractual law for the psychomarket
Consumer protection as regards non-medical practitioners
- Ingo Heinemann first of all recalled the history and preparation of this draft law and the deciding role played by his association which, since 1978, has examined issues raised by cults as regards healthcare. The draft law, originally drawn up by Mrs. Ursula Caberta, is actually inspected by the "Bundeslaender" and will be submitted to the German Bundestag probably in 2005, which was unable to complete its examination upon its first presentation in 1998.
- The speaker then stated the purpose of this law: the law bears on the sale of healing and personal development practices other than regulated medical healthcare, which is itself already subject to other laws. He also gave the limitations of this law: this law is not supposed to decide on the legitimacy or the effectiveness of the products and services on offer in this psychomarket. However, it does aim to enforce respect for minimum consumer protection conditions upon the sale of placebos, information, rituals, practices and procedures.
- Ingo Heinemann went on to call on FECRIS to work on introducing a similar draft law at European level. He recommends that this be done from a consumer protection angle – an important principle recognised by the European Community. He suggests that this law should draw inspiration from travel agreements already in place at European level.
- The speaker then gave details about some typical problems of the psychomarket, such as the lack of general terminology, the invisibility of the products and the problems generated by this. He also recalled that some groups employ extremely complex conditions in their contracts, which are very difficult to understand. He illustrated this point by giving the example of sales conditions for Scientology audits, and then the conditions for reimbursement.
- Ingo Heinemann then stressed the urgent need for having a binding law for protecting consumers in Germany and across Europe. He stated that such urgency was justified by the increasing number of cults and of people offering psychotherapy products.
- Lastly, the speaker dealt with advertising within the psychomarket, starting by recalling the results of work performed by Professor Kroeber-Riel not being related to the psychomarket, but to advertising for usual products. These results show that there are forms of advertising with "emotional conditioning", against which it is very difficult to shield oneself, even with prior knowledge of their content and meaning. He stated that these forms of extreme advertising are used by certain cults in order to condition their followers. As preventive information is said to prove insufficient, the speaker suggests that the law should also deal with the issue of emotional conditioning.
- The speaker concluded by stressing that this should be a written agreement, and should state the costs and services received and that it should include a right of retraction. He proposed to add an invalidity clause to this law for cases where emotional conditioning is used. He ended by stressing the urgency of taking this contractual law to European level.
A speaker offered to speak to the Central Consumer Protection Body in Brussels. He also informed those present of the existence of the Federal Economy in Switzerland, which is already committed to the campaign against a shift towards marabouts, clairvoyants etc. The President of FECRIS expressed his hope that the federation would pass this law at European level.