Hearing industry put on notice

Tuesday, 21st March, 2017

The ACCC has put the hearing aid industry on notice.

THE hearing aid industry has copped an earful from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which has accused some sectors of being driven by sales targets, commissions and incentives and not the needs of consumers.

Hearing aids range in price from about $1500 to more than $15,000 per pair.

In a survey conducted by the consumer watchdog, some people identified price as a barrier to buying hearing aids, while some clinicians raised concern about older people re-mortgaging their homes or entering into finance plans to pay for high-end models.

In a report, the ACCC says commissions up to 15 per cent were paid to some clinicians and could be calculated in a number of ways. More expensive hearing aids generally attracted higher commissions.

"Commissions and other incentives are generally not disclosed to consumers during consultations," the report says.

"If disclosure does occur, it is often after a decision has been made to purchase a particular hearing aid and the transaction is completed.

"Some major clinics provide sales training to clinicians and set sales performance measures. These measures may include average selling price per hearing aid, number of hearing aids sold, number of assessments that result in sales, number of high end devices sold and number of 'top-ups' for consumers with vouchers to purchase subsidised hearing aids as part of the Australian Government's Hearing Services Program.

"Hearing tests and the sale of hearing devices take place in a private healthcare setting with clinicians. As with other healthcare professionals, consumers expect that these clinicians will provide independent and impartial advice."

Putting the industry on notice, the ACCC has asked clinicians and consumers to contact its infocentre with specific complaints, and warns it will take enforcement action, including legal proceedings, for misleading or unconscionable conduct.

Industry peak body Audiology Australia said its code of conduct requires members to make recommendations to clients based on clinical assessment and client needs, not on the basis of financial gain.

Chief executive Tony Coles said anyone concerned with a clinician's conduct can make a formal complaint to Audiology Australia.

The ACCC has developed information to help consumers make an informed decision when buying hearing aids.

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