BC Supreme Court Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against RateMDs.com

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has certified a class action lawsuit against RateMDs.com, alleging the website breaches provincial privacy laws by posting health professionals' profiles and ratings without consent. RateMDs.com has filed a notice of appeal, arguing that the information is publicly available and non-personal.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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BC Supreme Court Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against RateMDs.com

BC Supreme Court Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against RateMDs.com

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has certified a class action lawsuit against doctor review website RateMDs.com, alleging that the website breaches provincial privacy laws by posting health professionals' profiles and ratings without their consent. The lawsuit was brought by Dr. Ramona Bleuler, a Vancouver-based physician, who claims that RateMDs.com "violates her right to be left alone" by exploiting her information for profit.

Why this matters: This lawsuit has significant implications for online review websites and the privacy rights of professionals, as it challenges the practice of aggregating and ranking personal information without consent. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for how online platforms balance the need for transparency with individual privacy rights.

The key allegations in the lawsuit are that RateMDs.com posts profiles and ratings of health professionals without their consent, breaching provincial privacy laws. The website also does not verify the accuracy of reviews and ranks health professionals in the same area by reviews, which the lawsuit argues further breaches their privacy. Additionally, health professionals cannot remove their profiles from the website.

In its defence, RateMDs.com argues that the information on their website is publicly available and non-personal, and therefore does not violate privacy. The company also claims that the public interest requires the reviews to remain available on the website, as they help prospective patients make informed decisions about engaging with certainhealth professionals.

However, Judge Michael Thomas ruled that the fact the information is publicly available does not determine whether there is a violation of privacy. The judge stated that the privacy issues go beyond just having names and contact information published, but also involve the information collected, centralized, and competitively ranked against other professionals by a for-profit entity. "I do not find that it is plain and obvious that the plaintiff does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information published by the defendants," said Judge Thomas.

In a statement to Global News, RateMDs said it is a "key resource" for Canadians and that offering a forum for patients to exercise their freedom of expression should not result in exposure to a certified class action proceeding. The company has filed a notice of appeal and will continue to vigorously defend the case.

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of health professionals in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec. It alleges that RateMDs.com's actions breach provincial privacy laws and violate health professionals' right to be left alone.

The certification of the class action lawsuit by the BC Supreme Court means the case will proceed, with RateMDs.com appealing the decision. The outcome of the lawsuit could have significant implications for online review websites and the privacy rights of professionals. Judge Thomas' ruling emphasizes that the aggregation of reviews, matching them to professionals' information, and comparative rankings could constitute a violation of privacy, even if individual reviews are permitted.