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Retailers Fined $2.5 Million for Misleading Advertisements

The ACCC announced today that the Federal Court has fined hearing aid retailers Oticon Australia and Sonic Innovations to pay $2.5 million in fines for blatant misleading advertisements they put in newspapers for hearing aids sold by HearingLife clinics and AudioClinic.

Both Oticon and Sonic admitted that the advertisements did contain false and misleading descriptions of the hearing aids being advertised under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program.

The advertisements falsely stated that in order for pensioners to receive a free hearing aid they had to book a free hearing test at one of the clinics when in actuality, there was no time limit.

The ads also falsely claimed that these free hearing aids had wireless technology inbuilt that would allow users to connect the hearing aids to their digital devices like TVs or smartphones.

In fact, in order to obtain those abilities, users had to purchase additional accessories which are sold separately.

Finally, they guaranteed that any user of the advertised free hearing aid would no longer miss any conversations when this would, of course, depend on individual circumstances.

“Many of the pensioners targeted by the advertisements were vulnerable due to their age and hearing loss. The misleading representations by Sonic and Oticon created a false sense of urgency for these consumers to book a hearing test and led them into a sales process based on incorrect information,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said in a media release.

In addition to paying penalties of $2.5 million, the Court ordered Sonic and Oticon to offer refunds to customers who purchased the additional accessories and to publish a notice in a nationally circulated newspaper admitting their actions.

You can read the full statement here.

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