Phonak Just Cut Off All 7,000+ US Hearing Aid Dispensers Including At Costco & VA

The Hearing Blog has discovered that Phonak has just cut off all 7,000 hearing aid dispensers in the United States in their new licensing agreement for their Target 4.0 programming software, required to access the new Venture hearing aids. Our discovery of this comes on top of European financial analysts panning Sonova stock last week because of sales losses to rivals GN ReSound and Starkey due to no “Made for iPhone” (MFi) offering.

Very few people bother to take the time to read the arcane software licensing agreements, as there are many pages of all sorts of esoterica, and the tiny scrollable text window doesn’t allow for resizing or right-click select & copy clipboard operations… So almost everyone just clicks Install and moves on. However, we at The Hearing Blog do the work our hearing care professional colleagues don’t, and we discovered this gem in section 4c:

4. Restrictions on License

You may not, at any time, during or after the Term of this License:

(c) permit other Persons to use the Software, except your employees who are qualified audiologists who are trained in fitting hearing aids and competent to use the Software and who have undertaken to use the Software in accordance with the terms of this License Agreement;

Here are the actual screen shots:

Phonak Target 4.0 license screens embedded in the installer dialog box. The header is on the left, while the landmine in Section 4(c) is on the right

Phonak Target 4.0 license screens embedded in the installer dialog box. The header is on the left, while the landmine in Section 4(c) is on the right.
Click to enlarge in a new window.

What’s more, Phonak has obfuscated this landmine clause by not providing a copy of the software license in the installation folder, instead embedding it inside the Phonak Target.MSI file.

Phonak Target 4.0 software installer folder. Note there is no file with the license: It's only embedded in the Phonak Target.MSI file.

Phonak Target 4.0 software installer folder. Note there is no file with the license: It’s only embedded in the Phonak Target.MSI file.
Click to enlarge in a new window.

Furthermore, in Section 2 of the agreement, one cannot just call and get verbal permission to use Target 4.0:

2. License Agreement

This License Agreement is a legally binding contract between you and Phonak. The License Agreement governs the terms and conditions on which you may use the Software.

Only authorized signatories of Phonak may amend this License Agreement and only in writing. Phonak sales and support representatives have no authority to modify this License Agreement, whether in writing or orally. You may not rely on any oral or written statements from such representatives or any other person to modify or interpret your obligations under this License Agreement.

We have forwarded our findings to the Costco legal department and to the Veterans Administration Office of the Inspector General to bring this to their attention, so they can decide how to proceed with their non-audiologist dispenser & technician employees: It appears that use of Phonak Target software by hearing aid dispensers would constitute an ethics breach, putting their State licenses in jeopardy.

You can download a PDF of the Target 4.0 license agreement generated by us at this link~

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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

One Comment

  1. Lutz Mueller
    October 24, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Dear Dan,

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to clarify this point.

    The End User License Agreement of the fitting software is unchanged since the first Phonak Target release and point 4. “Restrictions on License” is not an addition to version 4.0 of Target.
    For your information the End User License Agreement is always accessible in the help menu under “About Phonak Target” as well as in the path C:\Program Files (x86)\Phonak\Phonak Target\help\ PhonakEULA_en.rtf as you correctly pointed out.

    Regarding the usage of the “Audiologist” term. Phonak Target, Phonak hearing aids and accessories are classified as medical devices, thus follow certain rules and regulations governing the provisions of the software. Phonak Target is used globally by licensed hearing care professionals to customize Phonak hearing aids and accessories, access hearing tests, and much more. The End User License Agreement have been drafted to for global usage. In this regard “Audiologist” is the term for international usage. In countries outside of the United States the distinction between audiologist and dispenser is not always existent. A differentiation between various occupational profiles was never the goal of this document.

    We are sorry if this brought any confusion however we felt that your article, and in particular it’s title, doesn’t reflect the reality of things and wanted to correct some facts.

    Best regards,

    Lutz Müller
    Manager Software Products
    Phonak SA, Stäfa, Switzerland


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