Australian Government - Department of Health and Aged Care - Office of Hearing Services
Hearing Services Program

Provider Factsheet - Advertising and Marketing

The Department of Health administers the Australian Government Hearing Services Program (the program).

Advertising and marketing requirements for the program are set out in the:

  • Hearing Services Program (Voucher) Instrument 2019  (Instrument), particularly section 32: which prohibits false, misleading or deceptive representations
  • Service Provider Contract (Contract), particularly clauses 7.1(b) which also prohibits false or misleading representations and clause 38, which requires compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which provides consumer protection from false or misleading information.

Advertising and Marketing

Advertising and marketing includes, but is not limited to, shop front signage, direct calling, texting, letters/pamphlets/flyers, website content, social media, newspaper advertising and other types of promotion. Contracted Service Providers (providers) must ensure advertising and marketing material complies with the following program requirements.

Use of the Australian Government Logo

The Australian Government Logo (Logo) is highly regulated by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). There have been a number of occasions where the program has contacted providers requesting the removal of the Logo they have used as part of their advertising and marketing to program clients.

The presence of the Logo could mislead program clients, who may infer the service provider has a particular relationship with the program or the Australian Government.

Service providers must ensure there are no representations of the Logo in any of their advertising and marketing materials.

Relationship to government

Section 32 of the Instrument specifies that providers must not suggest, directly or indirectly, that program funded hearing services are only available through that provider, that there is any special relationship with the Minister or department that will benefit the client, or that the accreditation of the provider or approval of any hearing device is a recommendation or endorsement by the Australian Government.

Clause 31.2 of the Contract specifies that the service provider and their personnel must not represent themselves as being an officer, employee, partner or agent of the Commonwealth.

Promoting free hearing services & devices

Hearing services and devices provided to program clients and claimed from the program are paid for or subsidised by the Australian Government via Australian taxpayers. They are not “free” services or devices, even though the client may not be charged for them.

Advertisements for “free” hearing services or devices are misleading. Providers who wish to advertise with respect to hearing services and program devices must use the approved wording in section 32(3) of the Instrument (‘Conditions apply under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program’). Service providers must also inform eligible clients of the services that may be available free of charge under the program (section 25(2) of the Instrument) and must ensure clients sign a quote (including any associated costs to the client) prior to supplying devices. This also applies to any waiver of batteries and maintenance co-payments.

Further, section 32(4)(b) of the Instrument specifies that providers must not make any representation that suggests fully subsidised devices are provided free by the provider rather than subsidised by the government.

Device information provided to program clients

Section 32(4)(a) of the Instrument specifies that service providers must not bring the program into disrepute, including suggesting that fully subsidised devices are generally unsuitable.

Providers must not undermine the public’s trust and confidence in the program by suggesting fully subsidised devices are entry level or basic devices. Manufacturers provide a wide range of device features and technology at different price points. The program considers all listed devices as high quality and suitable to most client’s hearing needs.

Purchasing a partially subsidised hearing device should be a personal choice by the client and not an obligation. Service providers should not promote devices with features or technology beyond a client’s needs.

Direct Marketing

Cold Calling, Text Messaging & Promotional Emails

While cold calling, text messaging and emailing does not breach program requirements, service providers should be aware of their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988, the Do Not Call Register Act 2006, the Spam Act 2003 and Spam Regulations 2021

Clause 7.1(g) of the Contract requires the service provider to cease providing communications to any program client that has informed the service provider that they do not wish to be contacted or receive marketing materials. Clients can also submit a request to be placed on the Do Not Call Register which aims to reduce unsolicited contact and telemarketing calls, or may submit a complaint about unsolicited telemarketing or unwanted email or message advertising (spam) with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Screening tests, open days and promotional activities

Service providers must be aware of their program obligations under the Privacy Act 1988, clause 7.1(d) and Schedule C of the Contract, and section 35 of the Instrument regarding program clients that are not linked to the service provider in the Hearing Services Online Portal (portal). Attendance at screening tests, open days and promotional activities is not to be taken as the client’s agreement or consent to sign up with or change service providers. A service provider cannot link a client in the portal or access the client’s records without the client’s consent.

Site Listings

Clause 10 of the Contract requires service providers to maintain and update site information held in the portal.

Program clients use provider site listings to determine where they can readily receive their program services. Site listings must be kept up to date. If a site is no longer being used to provide program services the site must be removed from the site listing.

Further Information

Breaches of program requirements are taken seriously and investigated to ensure that service providers comply with their obligations under the program and towards program clients.

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