Hearing Aid Industry ACCC Investigation and Report

In November 2014 national ABC radio ran a story,

“Have I got a hearing aid for you.” 

The report raised a few concerning trends in the hearing aid industry.

One of these is what is known as “vertical integration”.  About one third of hearing aid clinics in Australia are owned by a hearing aid manufacturer.  This means that such a clinic is likely to only recommend one brand of hearing aid effectively limiting the client’s choice.

The report also discovered that some clinicians were paid commissions for hearing aid sales.  The commission paid was usually a percentage of the retail cost.  Therefore the more expensive the hearing aid, the more commission the clinician was paid.

At the time of the story it was also discovered that neither of these practices were usually disclosed to the clients.

The report also touched on the pressure some Audiologists were under to sell by their employers.   Sales targets were not uncommon and pressure was applied to meet these.  A clinicians worth at these companies was judged on their selling ability and not their audiological qualifications, experience or abilities.

The ABC radio story gained the attention of ACCC leading to a formal inquiry.  The ACCC released a report in March 2017 detailing its findings.

The report raised three key issues relating to the sale of hearing aids:

1.       Sales may be driven by commissions and other incentives rather than consumer need

  • clinics owned by hearing aid manufacturers
  • manufacturers offering incentives to sell their product
  • employer offering commissions to incentivise sales

 

2.       Cost and performance of hearing aids

  • cost a barrier to purchasing hearing aids
  • a number of consumers indicated that the performance of their hearing aids did not meet their expectations
  • concerns about consumers being offered only one or a limited selection of suitable hearing devices during consultations

3.       Treatment of vulnerable consumers

  • consumers who purchase hearing aids are often more vulnerable to persistent sales techniques and methods

Based on the information gathered during its inquiries, the ACCC has put the hearing aid sector on notice.

The three Audiologists/Directors at Audiology Trio welcomed the report by the ACCC.  As a member of the Independent Audiologists of Australia we support ethical and independent practice.  Audiology Trio offer patient centred care which is evidence based and represents best practice within a health care model.

As a members of Independent Audiologists Australia we abide by a stringent code of ethics and continuously educate and upgrade our skills and knowledge.