March 09 2017 0Comment

Hearing industry told to listen up

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) put the hearing aid sector on notice last week in relation to unscrupulous sales practices.

ACCC investigations found key issues regarding hearing aid sales in some hearing clinics, particularly those run by “major operators”, including:

  • sales driven by incentives (such as commissions) rather than consumer needs
  • practitioners not disclosing factors potentially affecting their recommendations, such as commissions, targets or that some clinics are owned by hearing aid manufacturers
  • hearing aid cost and consumers being sold technology they do not need
  • persistent and pervasive sales pressure applied to vulnerable customers

The ACCC is requesting all hearing clinic operators review their practices to ensure that health outcomes, not sales, are the primary consideration. The ACCC is also encouraging consumers and clinicians to report any concerns to them.

Despite calls from stakeholders, the report does not recommend the introduction of regulation in the currently self-regulated sector.

Local Audiologist and Mackay Hearing owner Jodie Miles is disappointed in the unsavoury practices that brought about the ACCC’s investigation.

“Unscrupulous practices in hearing clinics tarnish our important and otherwise dignified profession” Ms Miles said. “It’s not my place to lecture other providers, but I support the ACCC in shining a light on these issues and encouraging consumer awareness. Alarm bells should ring for consumers if they feel rushed, pressured or aren’t presented with a range of hearing aid options.”

Ms Miles was pleased that the report acknowledged that not all clinics or clinicians engage in questionable conduct.

“I and other clinicians I know are completely focused on hearing health outcomes, not sales. Our clinic is independently owned so we can recommend products from a wide range based on our client’s needs. We don’t pay staff commission on sales and our price list is structured so mark-up is the same across our entire range.”

Along with putting the hearing industry on notice, the ACCC also released guidance material for consumers.

“This material is an excellent resource, and we’re providing it to every client considering hearing aids” Ms Miles said.

“It essentially encourages consumers to be fully informed and to shop around for the level of service that best suits. It also provides practical advice such as requesting if a free trial period is available, and asking for a copy of your hearing test to enable you to shop around. I agree with this approach and believe it will empower consumers to make more informed and better decisions”.

 

Relevant links

 

ACCC Consumer Guidance poster

ACCC Consumer Guidance poster

Courtesy of ACCC wesbite: https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/hearing-aid-sector-put-on-notice

 

Find out more about Mackay Hearing at mackayhearing.com.au or call 4952 4649.

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