Attorney General Hardy Myers and Director of the Health Licensing Office Susan K. Wilson today announced that a Nevada corporation must stop falsely advertising in Oregon newspapers and telephone directories that it can assist in getting consumers' hearing aids paid for by Workers Compensation.
Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Multnomah County Circuit Court are James R. Piccola of Las Vegas, and his company Sounds of Life Hearing Centers, Inc. The company does business in Oregon as Hearing Aid Counselors with outlets in Portland, Bend, Gresham, Medford, Springfield, Beaverton, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass and Roseburg.
"Thousands of Oregonians suffer from hearing impairments," Myers said. "Luring consumers into a purchase with misleading promises that their hearing loss will be covered by Worker's Compensation is unconscionable."
Investigators from the Health Licensing Office found that the defendants advertise in telephone directories and in newspaper inserts implying that the company understands the complexities of filing worker' comp claims for hearing loss and can advise consumers. Workers' Compensation staff, in assisting the HLO, reported that, by law, only a certified workers' compensation claims adjuster may determine whether a claim is compensable. The claims adjuster's decision is subject to review by an administrative law judge of the Workers' Compensation Board, the Board itself, and the Court of Appeals.
"Licensed hearing aid dealers in Oregon are held to a standard that requires ethical methods of selling hearing aid devices to customers. Deceptive or misleading advertising is inappropriate and crosses that ethical boundary," Wilson said.
Under the agreement, the defendants must stop the advertisements and clear any future ads dealing with hearing aids and workers compensation through the Health Licensing Office. The company also is required to make written disclaimers to consumers disclosing that hearing aid dealers are not experts in determining eligibility for workers' compensation benefits and can only refer information to the Workers' Compensation Division.
The defendants shall not accept prepayment for goods or services for which the consumer indicates intent to apply for reimbursement through workers' compensation except in limited circumstances with full disclosure.
Sounds of Life Hearing Centers, Inc. paid $7,500 to the Department of Justice consumer protection and education fund. The company is operating under an earlier court action by Justice for violations of the Oregon "No Call List" law.
There are state and federal laws to assist Oregonians considering the purchase of hearing aids. Consumers wanting information on hearing aids may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us. The Federal Trade Commission is online at www.ftc.gov.
Consumers with questions about hearing aid dealers may contact the Health Licensing Office, Advisory Council on Hearing Aids, 700 Summer Street, N.E., Suite 320, Salem, OR 97301-1287; (503) 378-8667. HLO is online at www.hlo.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Weeks, Health Licensing Office, (503) 378-8667, ext. 4330
Steve Corson, Dept. of Consumer and Business Services, (503) 947-7868