My officials continue to work towards the deadline of April 2009, which the Government committed to in response to the Hampton Report.
We intend to repeal the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968 as part of the transfer process and officials are considering whether the new Legislative Reform Orders (LROs) are sufficient for this purpose. If it is determined that wholesale repeal of the Act is beyond the scope of LRO then we will pursue the matter using primary legislation, which would of course be subject to pressure on the parliamentary timetable.
My officials have worked with the Hearing Aid Council (HAC) executive to ensure that repealing the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968 and regulating private audiology under the Health Professions Council (HPC) will not reduce consumer protection.
This exercise has concluded that typical issues raised by complainants to the HAC would be covered adequately by existing and upcoming consumer protection legislation. Indeed, consumer protection is likely to be increased upon transposition of the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive next year.
For instance, sales visits in the home, high pressure sales practices, misleading advice or sales information would be covered by the doorstep selling regulations and the forthcoming Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which implement the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
The new regulations will strengthen consumer protection by introducing a general prohibition on unfair commercial (mainly marketing and selling) practices. The regulations, which will come into force in April 2008, are intended to ensure that consumers have the information necessary to make free and informed choices, and are not treated aggressively, including by means of high pressure selling techniques. They include rules prohibiting conduct which misleads the average consumer by what is said or omitted to be said, and thereby causes or is likely to cause him to take a decision he would not have taken otherwise. The regulations also prohibit aggressive practice which impairs the average consumer’s freedom of choice with regard to the product and thereby causes, or is likely to cause him to take a different decision.
My officials believe that these measures will be more than sufficient to protect consumers from dubious practices following the abolition of the Hearing Aid Council.