Substitute House Bill No. 5630

Public Act No. 99-111

An Act Protecting Purchasers of Hearing Aids.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 20-402a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) No hearing aid shall be sold to any purchaser unless accompanied in writing by a thirty-day trial period providing that if such purchaser returns the hearing aid in the same condition as when purchased, ordinary wear and tear excepted, within thirty days of the date of receipt of such hearing aid by such purchaser, such purchaser shall be entitled to free adjustment of such hearing aid or the return of the full purchase price of the hearing aid and accessories as itemized on the receipt therefor pursuant to subdivision (9) of section 20-404, as amended by this act, whichever the purchaser desires; provided, a hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist and audiologist may retain as a cancellation fee for return of the hearing aid a charge not in excess of twelve per cent of the purchase price, excluding charges for any custom earmold and batteries. The charge for any custom earmold and any supply of batteries shall not exceed the seller's regular selling price for such earmold and batteries. In computing the actual cost, all rebates, discounts [,] and other similar allowances provided to the seller shall be considered.

(b) Every hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist and audiologist shall include in every receipt and contract pertaining to a sale, in reasonable proximity to the space reserved for the signature of the [purchaser] buyer, or on the first page if there is no space reserved for the signature of the buyer, a clear and conspicuous disclosure of the following specific statement in all capital letters of no less than twelve point boldface type of uniform font and in an easily readable style: THE BUYER HAS THE RIGHT TO CANCEL THIS PURCHASE OR RENTAL FOR ANY REASON AT ANY TIME PRIOR TO MIDNIGHT OF THE THIRTIETH CALENDAR DAY AFTER RECEIPT OF THE HEARING AID. A CANCELLATION FEE OF TWELVE PER CENT OF THE PURCHASE PRICE MAY BE IMPOSED.

(c) Every hearing aid dealer, audiologist, corporation, partnership, trust, association or like organization that engages in the sale of hearing aids at retail shall include in every receipt, contract or order pertaining to the sale of a hearing aid, in reasonable proximity to the space reserved for the signature of the buyer, or on the first page if there is no space reserved for the signature of the buyer, a clear and conspicuous disclosure of the following specific statement in all capital letters of no less than twelve point boldface type of uniform font and in an easily readable style: ANY BUYER WHO ORDERS A HEARING AID AND LEAVES A DEPOSIT OF ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS OR MORE WITH THE SELLER SHALL BE ENTITLED TO CANCEL SUCH ORDER AND DEMAND A FULL REFUND OF SUCH DEPOSIT, LESS ANY EXAMINATION COSTS, IF THE BUYER IS UNABLE TO INSPECT THE HEARING AID AT THE SELLER'S PLACE OF BUSINESS WITHIN FORTY-FIVE DAYS AFTER THE DATE THE SELLER RECEIVES THE DEPOSIT.

Sec. 2. Section 20-396 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

As used in this chapter, except as the context may require otherwise:

(1) "Department" means the Department of Public Health;

(2) "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Public Health;

(3) "Hearing aid" means any wearable instrument or device designed for or offered for the purpose of aiding or compensating for impaired human hearing, and any parts, attachments or accessories, excluding batteries, earmolds and cords;

(4) "Practice of fitting hearing aids" means [making adaptations of hearing aids and includes] the comprehensive measurement of human hearing and determination and use of appropriate amplification related to hearing disorders, including, but not limited to, screening for the preexisting otological disorders listed in section 20-403, the making of impressions for earmolds, [the measurement of human hearing and] the making of selections and adaptation of hearing aids and the instruction and counseling in their use;

(5) ["Licensed hearing aid dealer"] "Licensed hearing instrument specialist" means a person, other than an audiologist or physician, licensed to engage in the practice of fitting or selling hearing aids;

(6) "Sell" or "sale" means any transfer of title or of the right to use by lease, or any other contract, for a consideration, excluding wholesale transactions with distributors or [dealers] hearing instrument specialists;

(7) "Otolaryngologist" means a physician licensed under chapter 370 who is certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and [shall include] includes physicians in training programs approved by the American Board of Otolaryngology;

(8) "Audiologist" means a person who is licensed under chapter 399 as an audiologist;

(9) "Used hearing aid" means a hearing aid [which] that has been previously sold, leased or rented to a hearing aid user.

Sec. 3. Section 20-398 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) No person [shall] may engage in the practice of fitting or selling hearing aids, or display a sign or in any other way advertise or [represent himself as] claim to be a person who sells or engages in the practice of fitting or selling hearing aids unless [he] such person has obtained a license under this chapter or as an audiologist under chapter 399. No audiologist, other than an audiologist who is a licensed hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist on and after July 1, 1996, shall engage in the practice of fitting or selling hearing aids until [he] such audiologist has presented satisfactory evidence to the commissioner that [he] the audiologist has (1) completed at least six semester hours of coursework regarding the selection and fitting of hearing aids and eighty hours of supervised clinical experience with children and adults in the selection and fitting of hearing aids at an institution of higher education in a program accredited, at the time of the audiologist's completion of coursework and clinical experience, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or such successor organization as may be approved by the department, or (2) has satisfactorily passed the written section of the examination required by this section for licensure as a hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist. No person [shall] may receive a license, except as provided in subsection (b), unless [he] such person has submitted proof satisfactory to the department that [he] such person has completed a four-year course at an approved high school or has an equivalent education as determined by the department; has satisfactorily completed a course of study in the fitting and selling of hearing aids or a period of training approved by the department; and has satisfactorily passed a written, oral and practical examination given by the department. Application for the examination shall be on forms prescribed and furnished by the department. Examinations shall be given at least twice yearly. The fee for the examination shall be one hundred dollars; and for the initial license and each renewal thereof shall be one hundred dollars.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a corporation, partnership, trust, association or other like organization maintaining an established business address from engaging in the business of selling or offering for sale hearing aids at retail, provided such organization employs only persons licensed, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter or as audiologists under chapter 399, in the direct sale and fitting of such products.

(c) Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist licensed under this chapter from making impressions for earmolds or a physician licensed in this state or an audiologist licensed under the provisions of chapter 399, from making impressions for earmolds in the course of [his] such person's clinical practice.

Sec. 4. Section 20-400 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) A temporary permit may be issued to a person who has submitted proof satisfactory to the department that [he] the applicant has completed a four-year course at an approved high school or has an equivalent education as determined by the department, upon application on forms prescribed and furnished by the department, accompanied by a fee of thirty dollars. A temporary permit shall entitle the applicant to engage in the fitting or sale of hearing aids for a period of one year under the direct supervision and training of a person holding a valid hearing [aid dealers and fitters] instruments dispenser's license or a license as an audiologist under chapter 399 or while enrolled in a course of study approved by the department, except that a person who holds a temporary permit shall be excluded from making selections of hearing aids.

(b) If a person who holds a temporary permit under this section has not successfully passed the licensing examination within one year from the date of its issuance, the temporary permit may be renewed once upon a payment of a thirty-dollar fee for such renewal.

Sec. 5. Section 20-401 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) A person who holds a license under this chapter or as an audiologist under chapter 399 shall notify the department in writing of the regular address of the place or places where [he] such person engages or intends to engage in the fitting or sale of hearing aids [,] and shall notify the department in writing of any change in [his] such person's regular place of business and of the new address or addresses of the place or places where [he] such person intends to engage in the fitting or sale of hearing aids at least ten days prior to such change.

(b) The department shall keep a record of the places of business of licensees.

(c) The licensee shall conspicuously post the license in [his] the licensee's office or place of business. Duplicate licenses shall be issued by the commissioner to valid license holders operating more than one office, without additional payment.

(d) Any notice required to be given by the commissioner under this chapter to a person who holds a license shall be mailed to [him] the person by certified mail to the address of the last place of business shown in the department records.

Sec. 6. Section 20-403 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

Anyone who has a history of: (1) Visible congenital or traumatic deformity of the ear; (2) active drainage from the ear within the previous ninety days; (3) sudden, or rapidly progressive, hearing loss within the previous ninety days; (4) acute or chronic dizziness; (5) unilateral hearing loss of sudden or recent onset within the previous ninety days; (6) audiometric air-bone gap equal to, or greater than, fifteen decibels at five hundred hertz (Hz), one thousand Hz, and two thousand Hz; (7) visible evidence of cerumen accumulation, or a foreign body in the ear canal; and (8) pain or discomfort in the ear within the previous sixty days shall be advised by the hearing [aid dealer, as defined herein,] instrument specialist to consult a physician or an otolaryngologist [, as defined herein,] prior to fitting of the hearing aid. A written statement, stating the consumer has been advised of such, shall accompany any sale of a hearing aid.

Sec. 7. Section 20-404 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) The department may suspend or revoke the license of a hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist, after notice and hearing as provided in the regulations adopted by the [Commissioner of Public Health] commissioner, or may reprimand or take any of the actions set forth in section 19a-17, for any of the following causes:

(1) The conviction of a crime in the course of professional activities. The record of conviction, or a certified copy thereof, certified by the clerk of the court or by the judge in whose court the conviction is had, shall be conclusive evidence of such conviction;

(2) Procuring of a license by fraud or deceit practiced upon the department;

(3) Unethical conduct, including: (A) The obtaining of any fee or the making of any sale by fraud or misrepresentation; (B) knowingly employing directly or indirectly any unlicensed person or any person whose license has been suspended to perform any work covered by this chapter; (C) engaging in fraud or material deception in the course of professional activities;

(4) Incompetence or negligence in fitting or selling hearing aids;

(5) Selling a hearing aid to a person under the age of eighteen without a prior ear examination by an otolaryngologist and an audiological examination performed or supervised by an audiologist;

(6) Fitting or selling a hearing aid to anyone who has a history of ear infection within the previous ninety days without requiring an examination by an otolaryngologist;

(7) Failure to comply with the examination procedures and tests prescribed in the regulations adopted under this chapter;

(8) Failure to properly supervise an individual holding a temporary permit under section 20-400, as amended by this act;

(9) Failure to furnish to a person supplied a hearing aid a receipt containing the date of delivery of the hearing aid to such person, the licensee's signature, business address, license number, serial number of the hearing aid, the model name and model number of the hearing aid, the full terms of sale, including terms of a manufacturer's and licensee's warranties and trial period, provided in section 20-402a, as amended by this act, and a statement of whether the hearing aid sold is new, used or reconditioned;

(10) Failure to retain for three years from the date of delivery of the hearing aid to the purchaser records containing the name and address of each purchaser of a hearing aid under a sale made by such hearing [aid dealer] instrument specialist, a copy of such purchaser's audiogram and all information required on a receipt under subdivision (9) of this subsection;

(11) Violating any provision of this chapter or of the regulations promulgated thereunder;

(12) Violating any provision of the Food and Drug Administration regulations pertaining to hearing [aid dealers] instrument specialists adopted under Title 21, professional and patent labeling and conditions for sale, or any provision of any regulation pertaining to hearing [aid dealers] instrument specialists adopted by the Federal Trade Commission;

(13) Physical or mental illness, emotional disorder or loss of motor skill, including, but not limited to, deterioration through the aging process, of the license holder; or

(14) Abuse or excessive use of drugs, including alcohol, narcotics or chemicals.

(b) The [Commissioner of Public Health] commissioner may order a license holder to submit to a reasonable physical or mental examination if [his] the license holder's physical or mental capacity to practice safely is the subject of an investigation. [Said] The commissioner may petition the superior court for the judicial district of Hartford to enforce such order or any action taken pursuant to section 19a-17.

(c) The [Commissioner of Public Health shall be represented by the] Attorney General shall represent the commissioner at all formal hearings held under this chapter.

(d) The [Department of Public Health] department may reissue any license [which] that has been revoked and may modify the suspension of any license [which] that has been suspended.

Approved June 3, 1999

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