Author: David Wolowitz & Michael O'Connor, Prairie State Legal Services
Last updated: May 2003
What Is It? The Hearing Instrument Consumer Protection Act is a state law which regulates the sale of hearing instruments.
What Is Its Purpose? To protect consumers from dishonest sales practices.
Who Can Benefit? People who purchase hearing instruments in Illinois.
The Hearing Instrument Consumer Protection Act (Act) provides Illinois consumers with several rights in connection with the purchase of a hearing aid or other hearing instrument.
Types of Hearing Instruments Covered by the Act
The Act applies to the sale of all devices that are designed, intended, or offered to improve a person's hearing. This includes the sale of hearing aid parts, attachments, or accessories, including an ear mold. The Act does not apply to the sale of batteries or cords. The Act also does not apply to devices offered by a telephone or other utility company in connection with providing telephone or other communication services. The Act does not apply to medical doctors or osteopathic doctors.
The Act applies to any "hearing instrument dispenser" doing business in Illinois.
The term "hearing instrument dispenser" means a professional who sells, fits, selects, recommends, dispenses, or services hearing instruments. This also includes people who give hearing tests for the purpose of selecting a hearing instrument.
The Act also applies to any person who is not a properly trained professional but who advertises or displays a sign or represents himself as someone who tests, fits, selects, services, dispenses, or sells hearing instruments.
Information Provided to You Before the Sale
Whenever the purchase price is $50 or more, the hearing instrument dispenser must give you a written statement which contains the following information:
Medical Examination Before Sale
You should have a medical doctor, who specializes in diseases of the ear, examine you before you buy a hearing aid. A hearing instrument dispenser may not sell you a hearing aid unless you present a statement from your doctor showing that you have been examined within the last 6 months and that you could benefit from a hearing aid.
However, the hearing instrument dispenser can sell a hearing aid to you even without a doctor's statement, if you sign a written waiver form. In the waiver form, you acknowledge that you have been informed that it is in your best interest to see a doctor and that you choose not to do so. The hearing instrument dispenser must not encourage or pressure you to sign the waiver.
Sale of Used Hearing Instruments
If you buy a used hearing instrument, the hearing instrument dispenser must clearly mark the receipt and the container as "used" or "reconditioned", whichever is applicable. The dispenser must clearly mark the terms of guarantee, if any.
Canceling the Sale
You are entitled to return the hearing instrument and receive a refund at any time during the first 30 business days following the sale. If you buy your hearing aid by mail order, you can return the hearing instrument at any time within 45 business days after the date that the hearing instrument was mailed to you.
If you return the hearing instrument to the manufacturer/supplier for adjustment or repair during the refund period, the refund period will be extended by the number of days that the hearing aid was out of your possession.
At the time of the sale, the dispenser must give you a written notice. The notice must inform you of the right to cancel the sale and of the address and phone number of the seller to contact in order to cancel. Upon the cancellation, you are entitled to a full refund. The dispenser can withhold a dispensing fee or a restocking fee, but only if this was clearly stated on the sale documents.
Complaints to the Department of Public Health
If your rights are violated under the Act, you may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health. You must file this complaint within 3 years from the date that a hearing instrument dispenser violated the Act. The complaint must be in writing and should include your statement about the facts.
You can get a complaint form from the Department. You should attach a copy of the contract or other relevant documents.
The Department will investigate your complaint, and they will encourage the dispenser to voluntarily correct the matter if there has been a violation of the Act. The Department has the authority to revoke or suspend the dispenser's license or impose a fine if a violation has occurred.
To file a complaint with the Department of Public Health, contact them at:
535 W. Jefferson St.
Springfield, IL 62761
Attorney General Lawsuit
If the Department of Public Health finds that a hearing instrument dispenser has violated the Act, the Illinois Attorney General has the authority to file a lawsuit against the dispenser. As part of the lawsuit, the dispenser can be ordered to pay you for any losses you have incurred as a result of the violation.
In addition to the above remedies, you have the right to file a private lawsuit against the hearing aid dispenser if they have violated the Act or if they have failed to honor a warranty or otherwise violated the contract. You are strongly advised to consult with a lawyer if you must take legal action, because of the complicated nature of the proceedings.
Printed from: illinoislegaladvocate.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.dsp_content&contentID=207
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