* Need Urgent Help Regarding Hearing Aid Transaction Law/Rule *

I am living in North California.
I have a dilemma, I would like to ask your help to answer my urgent questions regarding the procedure of hearing aid transaction:

Do you think that a customer/buyer who wants to buy a hearing aid in hearing aid dispenser/provider has to show their agreement on the price of the hearing aid that has been set by that provider/dispenser by signing a written agreement before buying a hearing aid?
Does the law usually require the transaction of the hearing aid have to be recorded in written agreement or some kind of documents that stating the price of the hearing aid that the provider set, what’s included in the transaction (like how long the guarantee, how many times of office visit for adjustment needed, etc.) and has to be signed by customer to show that the customer is agreed with the statement?
Or can the provider/hearing aid center just suddenly charged the customer who are buying the hearing aid with the bill while the customer is trying the hearing aid and haven’t sign any written document of transaction yet? And if the customer hasn’t been given any written price quote of the different hearing aids that he/she has been trying?

I truly appreciate all your advice and help.

don’t know much about CA but a timeline and more detail would be needed before anyone could take a guess.

I don’t know the specifics of California law, but I did find this brochure for you:

http://www.dca.ca.gov/hearingaid/consumers/brochure.pdf

As far as I have seen in every state I have been to in this country, it is a requirement that a written contract be given upon sale or certainly fitting of hearing aids. This contract has a bunch of state specific requirements such as disclaimers, language about trial periods, warranties etc. But also price, serial number, model number, condition of aids (new / used), and many more things besides.

I’ve never heard of any hearing professional trying to do things verbally. You should have a contract in hand the day you walk out of an office with hearing aids in. Pretty sure that’s the law.

Apart from anything else, hearing aids are a medical expense, so you want to hold on to the contract in case you can use it for a tax deduction.

If you think your hearing professional is being shady, confront them, and if you don’t like what you hear, inform them that you will be filing a complaint with the board. If they do not resolve the situation in a reasonable way, call the board, file a complaint. Boards are pretty powerful, and few hearing professionals would want to deal with a board complaint.

ZCT provided an excellent resource for you.

I don’t know about CA, but they typically have some of the most aggressive consumer protection laws in the country so I doubt what you are saying is happening is legal.

In Kentucky we must provide a purchase agreement and delivery statement which lists the information ZCT stated and details how long the patient has to return the devices as well as the fees that will (can) be charged should they decide to return the devices as well. It is signed and dated by the dispenser/audiologist and the patient. And that’s Kentucky, not exactly the most forward-thinking state in the country. I can’t imagine California allowing less than that.

I am not an lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Normally, a written contract protects the merchant more than the customer. Having said that, and depending on the price of the aids, the price is only set when there is an agreement (verbal or written) between the parties. But, this agreement can take many different forms. If there is a sign of prices or you are given a price sheet and you don’t express any rejection of that, and take some action that could be interpreted as acceptance, like taking aids home, he could have a case that you accepted the price.

But in a practical sense I don’t think he’s trying to trick you into buying.

I’m sure, even if a written contract is required, many transactions occur based on verbal expressions, or even a nod and wink. If you decide to keep them and give the person a credit card and they run the charge, and you take them home, then a sale was made even if state law or Uniform Commercial Code requires a written contract.

If he’s just saying here is what you owe, then you either pay the price, negotiate a lower price, or hand them back.

To be technical, UCC requires a written contract for transactions above $5,000 and a contract is unenforceable “unless there is some record sufficient to indicate that a contract for sale has been made between the parties and signed by the party against which enforcement is sought”… http://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/2/article2.htm

All states follow UCC but of course every state has their additions and subtractions.

Question Sushi, are you still trying out hearing aids but haven’t purchased any yet? How many hours has the audiologist spent on you?

Hearing aids are both unique and a medical device. Every state has a very specific set of rules as to what information must be on the purchase agreement, how it must be stored, how long it must be held on file for, and often (as in the state of California) specific language that protects the consumer, usually including the name and address of the state licensing board, language surrounding the 30 day trial etc.

In the legal sense one can have a verbal agreement, but hearing aids have a unique set of rules that are required above and beyond any normal contract law. They are weighted surprisingly in favor of the consumer, and frankly the law and the licensing boards tend to favor the consumer in the case of a dispute.

If this company in question is making a habit of verbal agreements and non-specific terms and conditions provided verbally, I suspect a single audit could put them out of business, or close to it. When the board gets involved, it’s not good. I have thankfully never incurred their wrath, but I have heard stories.

That’s why I said “even if a written contract is required”. The merchant can still go to court (small claims if it qualifies, very low cost) and the judge will decide if a contract existed and if the OP owes, and how much. Now, if the judge says a contract existed and the form or details of that contract violate the board’s regulations, that is a separate issue and may never come before the board unless the OP or the judge makes a call (doubtful the judge would call).

This may be a special set of circumstances where the merchant doesn’t usually operate this way but after working with the OP for a number of months, may have taken an unusual step.

My point is not to let a misunderstanding of the price or terms happen in the first place and don’t take home property from a merchant unless you understand and agree to the terms.

Sushi,
We both live in CA, where almost everything we do or buy that is a major expense has to be in writing. From auto repair, home buying( disclosure statements as big as a phone book), home repair( unless it’s under $500), and medical devices and many other products. Your audiologist or HIS should have given you a contract listing the price and the terms before you paid for them and if he didn’t and you are having problems getting you money back or ending the trial, contact the CA consumer affairs agency.

does anyone actually understand the question? seens if it was so urgent he would have checked back by now.

Mick,
The question is in there somewhere. He’s been looking to get new HA since last summer, so I think he may be making sure he has all his ducks in a row and all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Just a guess on my part though.

I can’t tell what he is asking either, but the answers are interesting.

Not really. Not enough information. My guess is either he didn’t think he bought the aids and the merchant thinks he did, or there is a dispute about the price they agreed on.

Thank you all for your advice and reply, I really appreciate it.
To share more details about my situation, I have been working with this provider for nearly half a year and during that 6 months period I have been trialing several (maybe 5) hearing aids brand and series as per the suggestion of this provider. The office of this provider is a very small office operated only by 2 people. My hearing loss is very unique, I could not hear high freq sounds and I am diagnosed with profound/severe hearing loss. At first the audi advised me to try the new technology called “frequency shifting” which can move the high freq to hearable freq for me. The week after I went there and told the audi that it’s not really working so the audi advised me to try another one, until the 4th one. Please keep in mind I just want the hearing aid that works for me, and the audi seems not competent enough and doesn’t know how to fine tune or details of each hearing aid series that was recommended to me to try. Maybe the audi is patient but if she is not competent to know what is she doing other than simply make some basic adjustment and if it doesn’t work she would just ask me to try another one. Everytime the audi advised me to try another model/series of hearing aid, she never show me a written list of the price quote for each of hearing aid, and when I asked her to please show me the price list or give me a quote, she just said that she doesn’t have the updated one and she showed me the old “list”…but on that list it doesn’t state the model of specific hearing aids, it just states “digital hearing aid (top line): $2700-3000”…“Earmold: $150”…etc., very vague and ambiguous, right? and also she said “well don’t worry about that, now the most important is we just have to try to find one that works for you, it’s useless if I give you the price but then this one don’t work and we have to try another aids again, right? besides, I don’t know the price and have to ask the factory first, I wouldn’t know until I ordered and they send me the bill”…so I just go along with it since she seemed nice and friendly.
For your information, every time I trialing one hearing aid brand, it usually around 2-3 weeks, every 1 week I would go there to follow up, and when I told her I couldn’t hear well with this aid, she will just made basic adjustment on the computer, like increasing/decreasing the gain, of high or low, not a fine tuning. Oftentimes when I asked her to turn on the noise reduction capability or increasing the noise reduction level, she seemed puzzled and said something like “oh sorry this is new model, I have to call the company to ask”, then she called the company while I was there and asked how to do this and enable this feature etc.
Then after that, even I already told her it doesn’t work well to improve my hearing, she told me to wear it one more week, the reason she told me was “your brain has to be adjusted to new sounds of hearing aids”…ok so I followed her advice…
Up until the 5th aids, I went home and then tried it one week, then went back there and told her that the sounds or adjustment is not right, I still cannot hear well, she made some adjustment and at that time I also asked her, “well IF you can figured what’s wrong and adjusted it correctly and it works, how much for this aid?” …she just smiled and said don’t worry about it just tried it first, like usual she is evading my question…then she said “well to another person I would sell this $6000 a pair but for you …I think maybe around $4500” in friendly voice and gesture… I thought it was a fair price because I also researched and asked around and that “estimate” price, although ambiguous, was normal market price out there that every provider charges for this aid series that I have been trialing, (other providers that charged this same fair price also included warranty and unlimited office visit for adjustment service). So I thought it was fair and she is honest, nice, and friendly.
Oh yea the reason I cannot just changed provider easily is because my insurance is very strict and only cover certain provider and although it takes an hour drive, her office is the closest in my area while others were extremely far away. Although my insurance doesn’t cover all but it helps since I don’t make that much income.
Fast forward a week later, I got a mail from this provider and to my surprise, I am shocked to see that she sent me a bill of $6000!!! Furthermore, she also listed the due date of every payment that has to be made etc., with note that there is no finance charges if I made my payment on time. She just listed the brand of the hearing aid and that price on the bill, just the brand name, there is no series and serial number etc.
Again, I never been given written quote or list every time she suggested me to try different aids and also she never explain what cost or fee that I have to pay, also I never sign nor agree to anything.

Can I negotiate with her if I don’t agree with this price, plus the price on the bill is different with the fair price that she “quoted” me last time verbally. And I never sign nor say I am willing to pay that amount.
Seriously, I cannot pay that much! I don’t make that much and it will seriously put me in the hardship if I pay that amount. I am in shock and stressed now, that’s why I need your urgent help and advice. Thank you very much in advance for your understanding and I really appreciate from the bottom of my heart …

It sounds like she either forgot she gave you the verbal estimate or she changed her mind. But, of course it’s negotiable. If you remind her she quoted you $4500 and she will not lower the price and you are unwilling or unable to pay the higher amount, take them back.

I’m a little concerned that either the audiologist’s technical ability is not that high or your expectations, with profound hearing loss, are too high.

Are there other things that are not getting adjusted right, like feedback, or entrainment, or any warbling? Are the programs set up like you want? Is the gain high enough? What “fine tuning” do you want?

So after 6 months and 5 hearing aids she decided to send a bill? My guess she factored in future adjustments in the final price or maybe just forgot the estimate. So you have no place else to go as your insurance won’t cover… what are your choices? Take them back and go someplace else not using your insurance. I would think she is entitled to something for her time spent trying to make HA’s work for you over the past six months. Or pay the bill and figure its as good as it gets.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. The entire scenario you presented seems shady and questionable and I’d never feel comfortable dealing with someone like that, but since you are limited on choices you are forced to find a “happy medium”. I would start by calling your insurance and ask them if any claims have been made for the products by this provider. If she sent you a bill, what benefit is your insurance paying? Are they going to refund the money the insurance pays if they pay anything at all? Is this provider part of a “discount” plan or are they actually paying monies to her for the products as well?

  2. If you determine that the 'benefit" is simply an arrangement between insurance and a provider network but there is no actual paid-out benefit paid to the provider, call around and see if someone will match/beat the price you were quoted/billed from this other person. If you can go somewhere else, try to find someone with some experience fitting hearing aids and require everything to be written down/signed and given to you up-front. Even the description of having the limited information on the bill seems very shady.

Here are the actual laws taken from the Official department overseeing Hearing Instrument Sales:

Written Receipts
3365. A licensee shall, upon the consummation of a sale of a hearing aid, deliver to the purchaser a written receipt, signed by or on behalf of the licensee, containing all of the following:
(a) The date of consummation of the sale.
(b) Specifications as to the make, serial number, and model number of the hearing aid or aids sold.
© The address of the principal place of business of the licensee, and the address and office hours at which the licensee shall be available for fitting or postfitting adjustments and servicing of the hearing aid or aids sold.
(d) A statement to the effect that the aid or aids delivered to the purchaser are used or reconditioned, as the case may be, if that is the fact.
(e) The number of the licensee’s license and the name and license number of any other hearing aid dispenser or temporary licensee who provided any recommendation or consultation regarding the purchase of the hearing aid.
(f) The terms of any guarantee or written warranty, required by Section 1793.02 of the Civil Code, made to the purchaser with respect to the hearing aid or aids sold.

[I]Also, by not providing you with these details she’s in violation of the state law:

Violations
3401. The bureau may deny, issue subject to terms and conditions, suspend, or revoke a license, or impose conditions of probation upon a licensee, for any of the following causes:

(a) Gross incompetency which includes, but is not limited to, the improper or unnecessary fitting of a hearing aid.
(b) Gross negligence.
© Repeated negligent acts.
(d) Conviction of any crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a hearing aid dispenser.
(e) Obtaining a license by fraud or deceit.
(f) Use of the term “doctor” or “physician” or “clinic” or “audiologist,” or any derivation thereof, except as authorized by law.
(g) Fraud or misrepresentation in the fitting or selling of a hearing aid.
(h) The employment, to perform any act covered by this chapter, of any person whose license has been suspended, revoked, or who does not possess a valid license issued under this chapter.
(i) The use, or causing the use, of any advertising or promotional literature in a manner that has the capacity or tendency to mislead or deceive purchasers or prospective purchasers.
(j) Habitual intemperance in the use of alcohol or any controlled substance.
(k) Permitting another to use his or her license for any purpose.
(l) Violation of any provision of this chapter or of any regulation adopted pursuant to this chapter.
(m) Any cause that would be grounds for denial of an application for a license.
(n) Violation of Section 1689.6 or 1793.02 of the Civil Code.[/I]

  1. Give the hearing aids longer than a couple weeks to see if they are working or not. She was right when you said you needed to let your brain adjust. If you run into the same problem again (no hearing aid working, trying all sorts of aids) then it’s time to look at your expectations and your severity of loss especially regarding speech scores…it may be that your ears are simply not capable of delivering the sound you are looking for. If the system is severely damaged then a million-dollar hearing aid will still be unclear to you.
    Also, “fine tuning” means any adjustment…even the simple ones, so the changes she made are considered fine tuning. I don’t know what kind of additional adjustments you were looking for. A pro shouldn’t have to come into the software and make huge, sweeping changes to the settings. Changes are made in small increments and only a couple parameters at a time or else how would we know what change me made made things better or worse? I realize it may seem a bit tedious, but fitting hearing aids is often as much (if not more) of an art as it is a science.

Hope some of that helps. I would be more concerned about the way the audi/pro is handling the situation regarding money than the programming at this point.

sounds to me like she went above and beyond the call of duty trying to make you happy. have you discussed all of this with her? if you can’t come to an agreement simply return the aid. since you have not signed a PO, I see no reason you couldn’t. But, if she has invested this much time and effort I currently think it would be proper for her to bill T&M.

ZCT originally posted this link :
http://www.dca.ca.gov/hearingaid/consumers/brochure.pdf

which details nicely what a hearing aid buyer in the state of California can expect. I’d read it again and pay special attention to the ‘30-trial’ & ‘Receipt Requriements’ section of the brochure. It sounds like all her verbal agreements may not have been legal within the writing of their laws.

I think I would return the hearing aids, and find another company that your insurance will deal with.

When a hearing professional dispenses a hearing aid they are supposed to issue a purchase agreement detailing everything in writing, price, model number, serial number, along with state required disclaimers, waivers and warranties. Simply issuing you with hearing aid after hearing aid, telling you not to worry about the price, not filing proper paperwork is all a violation of her professional duties and is illegal.

Your insurance surely must have another place you can go, work with them, don’t be dealing with this idiot any more. This woman has lied, withheld information, made up prices off the top of her head, and pushed you into a very expensive system that she seems incapable of fixing.

Also an another point that whole frequency transposition thing takes a lot longer than a week to get used to, and while you may not like that sound initially, it may give better speech understanding with perseverance.

While you may feel obligated to this woman for all the time she has invested, she has also failed in her job to help you hear, she has lied to you about pricing, and has conducted herself in a matter that is a violation of her license and ethical and professional obligations. When she chose to cross that line, she really gave up any rights to make money from you, or earn your loyalty or trust.