Dr David Ballantyne took on the Maxine Horne-run Vita Gorup Limited in court.
Dr David Ballantyne took on the Maxine Horne-run Vita Gorup Limited in court.

Botox wars: Qld doctor takes on cosmetic giant

A SOUTHEAST Queensland botox doctor has called out a stockmarket-listed cosmetic treatment giant run by one of the country's richest female chief executive officers for violating medical guidelines around "pushing" unnecessary treatments on patients through upselling and 'entrapment', a court has heard.

A lawyer for David Ballantyne, a cosmetic doctor from Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, told the Supreme Court in Brisbane that Dr Ballantyne quit his job with the Artisan Aesthetic Clinic in Maroochydore in March after he considered their practices were in "violation of Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency guidelines".

 

Dr David Ballantyne has hit out at what he claims are the “unethical” practices of cosmetic treatment giant Vita Group Limited.
Dr David Ballantyne has hit out at what he claims are the “unethical” practices of cosmetic treatment giant Vita Group Limited.

The claims were made in court after Artisan's owner Vita Group Limited, based in the Brisbane suburb of Albion and run by millionaire CEO Maxine Horne, last month rushed to court to get an urgent injunction to block Dr Ballantyne from offering Botox or other cosmetic services within a 50km radius of the Maroochydore business.

Artisan went to court because Dr Ballantyne announced on Facebook that he would be opening a new clinic called Venustas from the Pulse medical specialist centre at nearby Birtinya offering dermal filler, skincare and anti-wrinkle treatments.

Birtinya is just 13km from the Artisan clinic in Maroochydore, Vita's lawyers told the court.

The order was to enforce a restraint of trade clause in Dr Ballantyne's sale contract, signed after Dr Ballantyne sold his clinic, called Inject Skin, to Artisan in July last year for $736,000.

Dr Ballantyne submitted the restraint of trade clause should be given a narrow interpretation and he should be allowed to continue to work, offering his limited range of treatments.

Lawyer Clinton Bothma, for Dr Ballantyne, told the court that Dr Ballantyne began working at the Artisan Clinic last year after he sold his clinic to them.

Mr Bothma said that Dr Ballantyne believed that under his ownership Inject Skin was an "ethical" clinic "with reasonable prices and no upselling or pushing of unnecessary treatments".

"Once the business changed to be under the Artisan brand this changed," Mr Bothma said.

"In March, Vita decided to raise the price of a medical service provided by 50 per cent without telling existing clients when they booked in," Mr Bothma said.

"Their explanation was if clients were told over the phone it would 'potentially lose the booking altogether'," Mr Bothma told the court.

"(Dr Ballantyne) felt Vita were entrapping the clients. Vita staff were also provided a script to offer incentives to get treatment at the increased price should they not be keen on paying a significant amount more (ie a free facial, or free skin needling treatment)," he said.

I

Maxine Horne is the millionaire CEO behind Vita Group. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Maxine Horne is the millionaire CEO behind Vita Group. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

n his resignation email to Vita Group CEO Maxine Horne on March 11, Dr Ballantyne told Ms Horne: "I must continue ethical practice, and don't feel comfortable doing this within the Artisan environment".

"Recent events and the introduction of new processes in clinic have brought to the surface the fact Vita Values and my core values are too far apart to continue on," Dr Ballantyne wrote in the email, tendered in court.

Vita Group's lawyers tendered to the court copies of Dr Ballantyne's professional Facebook page where he posted about his new Venustas Cosmetic Clinic, as proof of his intention to breach his four-year restraint clause.

On the Facebook page Dr Ballantyne, a former hospital emergency doctor, said his clinic would "provide affordable, ethically based treatments without the 'up-sell' that is all to common in this industry".

"There wont be any pushy sales tactics, upselling or incentivising," Dr Ballantyne wrote on the page tendered in court.

Artisan Clinics Group Queensland manager Alison Pringle said in her affidavit that one female Artisan client who "usually spends $500" on treatments "each time she attends" had posted on Dr Ballantyne's Facebook page on May 9 that she would be booking in with Dr Ballantyne at his new Venustas clinic.

 

Dr Ballantyne accused the Vita Group of “pushing” unnecessary treatments on patients.
Dr Ballantyne accused the Vita Group of “pushing” unnecessary treatments on patients.

 

Ms Pringle said that Artisan Clinics Group began by buying up medical clinics in 2018 and now has 19 clinics nationwide with 12 in Queensland, three in NSW, one in Victoria and three in the ACT.

The Queensland clinics include locations such as Bulimba, Fortitude Valley, Newstead, Hope Island, Maroochydore, Eagle Farm and Rosalie.

Artisan offers cosmetic injections, laser and light treatments, body contouring, skin tightening as well as anti-wrinkle, collagen, dermal filler, fat dissolving and skin needling.

Vita Group's general manager of mergers and acquisitions Michael Gentry told the court in his affidavit that restraint clauses like those signed by Dr Ballantyne are needed to ensure vendors don't sell then open up a new business in competition with Vita.

"We did not want (Dr Ballantyne's) purchase price to fund him setting up a new clinic next to any of our other locations," Mr Gentry said in his affidavit.

Justice Glenn Martin ordered on May 14 that Dr Ballantyne be banned from carrying on a business in competition with Artisan or marketing to its customers, or his former customers, or poaching staff.

 

Originally published as Botox wars: Qld doctor takes on cosmetic giant



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