Pharmacy2U legal bid to obtain NPA members’ contact details quashed


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By Léa Legraien
Reporter

17 Dec 2018

A High Court judge has quashed a case brought by a leading online pharmacy in an attempt to get the contact details of the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) members.

Pharmacy2U’s (P2U) request to obtain contact details – including the names and addresses of 3,202 NPA members – was ‘not necessary or desirable’, Master Julia Clark ruled on Friday (14 December).

A P2U spokesperson said: ‘The High Court ruling wasn’t the conclusion of a legal case, it was in response to an administrative step to gather more information.’

In bringing the case, P2U accused the NPA of trade mark infringement by using its name on a poster and leaflet sent to NPA members last year.

It claimed that the poster and leaflet contained an attempt to ‘rubbish the value of [P2U’s] brand and divert business away from [P2U] to [NPA’s] members’, P2U chief operating officer Gary Dannatt told the High Court.

P2U said it needed the members’ information to assess the ‘extent of damage [the company] has been exposed to’ and to contact NPA members with a view to ‘address the ongoing harm’.

Timeline of proceedings

  • Late November 2017 – NPA sends a leaflet and a poster to its members urging patients to use their local pharmacy and highlighting previous P2U difficulties. These included:

– A £130,000 fine for selling patients’ details to marketing companies in October 2015.

– Failure to send out prescriptions for three weeks during Christmas 2015.

– A Care Quality Commission rating that deemed P2U ‘not safe, effective or well led’ in February 2017.

  • 1 December 2017 – P2U writes to the NPA claiming trademark infringement and demanding the NPA commits to destruction of all copies of the materials as well as issuing a retraction/apology to the members they were sent to.
  • 13 December 2017 – NPA denies trade mark infringement and asserts the truthfulness of the statements on its materials.
  • 31 January 2018 – P2U states that it will be ‘pursuing its claim for trade mark infringement’ before taking any action. P2U also demands to be given the names, addresses and contact details of NPA’s members by 23 February.
  • 22 February 2018 – NPA declines to provide the information requested.
  • 13 March 2018 – P2U argues that it needs to see copies of the materials to measure the extent of damage to its reputation and consider what to do next.
  • 29 March 2018 – NPA replies that the information requested by P2U is protected under the Data Protection Act, and that P2U already has the information it needs.
  • 2 July 2018 – P2U initiates legal proceedings, asking the High Court to order the NPA to disclose the names and addresses of the members who received the documents.

 

Ruling

 

Master Clark ruled that ‘the disclosure sought [by P2U] is neither necessary or desirable’.

She added: ‘They [NPA members] were not responsible for the wording of the notice; and have no direct knowledge of its truth or falsity.

‘There is a serious risk, therefore, that P2U would therefore be able to “pick off” the individual members, without ever having to submit to a judicial determination of the merits of its claim.’

 

‘Unjustified and unreasonable’

 

Welcoming the judgment, the NPA said that P2U request was ‘unjustified and unreasonable’ and was an attempt to ‘intimidate’ NPA members.

It added: ‘Online pharmacies have a place within the health sector and we have a significant number within our membership, but all pharmacies must behave appropriately irrespective of their business model.

‘Ultimately, this is about patient choice and ensuring people have access to information that enables them to make an informed choice about their healthcare.’

 

‘Concerned’

 

The P2U spokesperson said it is ‘concerned’ that the NPA had distributed materials that the online pharmacy said infringed its trademark and ‘spread outdated content from over three years ago, which was prior to the company going through a merger and major structural and personnel change.’

They added: ‘We are surprised that the NPA cited that it embraces distance dispensing considering the content of the leaflets, but welcome that it is finally embracing that technology can improve patient access to healthcare and ease the strain on the NHS.’

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