July 06 2016 0Comment

Mackay Hearing welcomes ACCC investigation

Mackay Hearing welcomes last week’s ACCC announcement of formal investigations into reported unscrupulous behaviour by some Audiology practitioners. The ACCC’s investigation is prompted by a 2015 public survey, which revealed a range of consumer concerns regarding the sale of hearing devices. The ACCC public survey was triggered by revelations of unethical practice broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National program in 2014.

Audiology services are provided in both regulated and self-regulated environments. Fully and partially subsidised services to eligible pensioners and veterans are provided by approved clinics (including Mackay Hearing). These services are regulated and audited by the Hearing Services Program (HSP). Government funded hearing services are also provided through Hearing Australia for children and adults up to the age of 26.

Audiology services for people over 26 and not eligible for the HSP are only covered by ‘self-regulation’. Audiology Australia, Independent Audiologists Australia and other professional bodies representing Audiologists have developed codes of conduct, certification and accreditation programs. However self-regulation is non-binding and practitioners can work outside these frameworks without consequence. In a self-regulated environment, anybody can call themselves an Audiologist and sell hearing aids.

Media stories have highlighted examples of consumers being persuaded to purchase expensive hearing aids with features in excess of their actual needs. Concerns have arisen that clinics owned by hearing aid manufacturers, or clinics working towards manufactures’ sales incentives, are not required to disclose this information. Consumers are also concerned that Audiologists in some clinics receive commissions for selling certain products, and that this can affect their professional opinion.

While Principal Audiologist Jodie Miles believes that ethical clinics and clinicians outweigh unethical ones, she fully supports the ACCC’s investigation and is hopeful that it provides further motivation for the development of regulation. “The ACCC investigation is an important first step to help define the problem, however only regulation will remove rogue traders and behaviours and restore public confidence in the Audiology profession” Jodie said.

Jodie was also keen to assure clients that services provided by Mackay Hearing are far-removed from the issues being investigated by the ACCC, given that Mackay Hearing:
•   is independently owned, and can therefore offer a variety of products from different suppliers
•   do not operate under suppliers’ sales targets or incentives
•   only have clinicians that are fully qualified and accredited
•   do not pay commissions to team members
•   conduct generous appointment times – shorter appointment times would increase volume but compromise quality of service
•   never pressure clients into purchasing hearing devices, in fact hearing devices are only offered to clients who are motivated

The ACCC is currently reviewing relevant material, and will likely provide the public with further information in the coming months.

The ACCC has also advised that consumers or clinicians can continue to raise concerns regarding the sale of hearing devices by contacting the ACCC’s Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or by visiting the ACCC’s website and lodging a complaint online.

 

Relevant links

ACCC website

ACCC Public Survey, 2015 [information no longer available]

Statement from Independent Audiologists Australia [information no longer available]

Media broadcasts:

ABC Radio National (Radio) – Have I got a hearing aid for you! (30/11/2014)

ABC 7.30 Report (TV) – Hearing experts warn against privatisation of Australian Hearing in already-pricey, ‘cowboy’ industry (06/10/2015)

ABC AM Program (radio) – ACCC investigates rorting claims in audiology industry (28/06/2016)

ABC AM Program (radio) – Peak audiology bodies call for regulation as people are ‘vulnerable to exploitation’ (30/06/2016)

 

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

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