A Complaint over Custom Shoes

The College received a complaint from a client (the “Complainant”) advising that he met with the Registrant for assistance in obtaining custom shoes and alleging (among other things) that the Registrant (i) misrepresented that he was purchasing custom-made shoes when he received custom orthotics; (ii) failed to have transparent and justifiable billing practices in invoicing him; and (iii) yelled and became aggressive when the client questioned a change made on the invoice from “custom made shoes” to “custom made orthotic shoes.”

The Registrant said that custom shoes were created by virtue of the inclusion of orthotics. The Registrant said that a custom-made shoe does not necessarily mean that the entire shoe is made from scratch but rather that it has been professionally fitted to a person’s foot, such as by including custom orthotics. The Registrant said all receipts and invoices were provided to the Complainant and that the change on the invoice from “custom made shoes” to “custom made orthotic shoes” was done at the Complainant’s request. Further, the Registrant denied yelling and becoming aggressive with the Complainant and said it was the Complainant who was angry and threatening.

The Inquiry Committee considered the Registrant’s position that a custom shoe is created by virtue of the inclusion of orthotics. The Inquiry Committee noted a clear delineation between custom shoes and orthotics, which the Registrant failed to explain to the Complainant. The Inquiry Committee noted the importance of ensuring that a client is fully aware of what they are purchasing and why and felt that the lack of communication by the Registrant in this regard and failure to discuss the differences between custom shoes and orthotics warranted regulatory action.

Although the Inquiry Committee determined that there was insufficient evidence to support a provisional finding that the Registrant communicated unprofessionally, contrary to Practice Standard 4: Communication, the Inquiry Committee was concerned that the Registrant failed to ensure that the fees charged were transparent, justifiable, and clearly communicated as required by Practice Standard 10: Fees and Billing.

According to Practice Standard 10, the physical therapist is responsible for ensuring that the fees charged for physical therapy services are transparent and justifiable, enabling clients to make informed choices. Clients can expect fee schedules and billing practices for physical therapy services are transparent, justifiable, and clearly communicated. Further, the physical therapist is expected to provide a fee schedule that includes transparent and accurate information about billing policies and all potential charges (e.g., assessments, reports, cancellations, equipment, any additional specialized fees).

As a result, the Inquiry Committee determined, and the Registrant agreed, that this would be an appropriate case to seek a consent agreement under sections 33(6)(c) and 36(1) of the Act with terms requiring the Registrant undertake to:

  1. always adhere to appropriate fee and billing requirements in accordance with Practice Standard 10;
  2. provide a proper fee schedule in accordance with Practice Standard 10(b), which fee schedule to be approved by the Inquiry Committee;
  3. advise the Inquiry Committee as to how the approved fee schedule will be made available to clients; and
  4. write a competency paper, consisting of at least 500 words (exclusive of references), comprehensively addressing the specific differences between custom shoes and custom orthotics, to be approved by the Inquiry Committee.

The resolution of this matter did not require public notification under section 39.3 of the Act and has therefore been anonymized to maintain confidentiality.