It sounds as though Walmart (NYSE: WMT) should have listened a little more closely to state law before deciding to jump into the Texas hearing-aid market. The mega-retailer is being slapped with a federal class-action lawsuit by members of the Texas Hearing Aid Association for selling the hearing devices without a state license.
Not only does the group want Walmart to stop selling hearing aids, but they want the court to order all of Walmart's prior profits from the sale of them returned.
"Walmart entered the Texas market and started selling hearing aids in all of their stores without going through the time, the trouble and the expense to go through the licensure process," Bill Chamblee, managing partner of Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson told the Dallas Business Journal. "They just skipped that process. They said 'We're not going to do it.'"
The company didn't deny any of that in its response via spokesman Dan Fogelman. Instead, he focused on Walmart's mission to help people save money and the potentially thousands of dollars the company's customers are saving.
"While a medical exam is recommended before purchasing a hearing aid, under federal law, adults have the option to waive an exam before buying them," Fogelman said. "We offer our customers that option."
Unfortunately for Walmart, Chamblee didn't chase after that particular red herring, instead pointing out that the federal law that allows for waivers specifically gives states the right to require a license to sell hearing aids. Walmart ignored that law in Texas, in what he characterized as a choice between profit and health.
"The State of Texas estimates that more than 3.8 million residents are deaf or hard of hearing," Chamblee said. "That's a tremendous potential customer base that Walmart apparently couldn't resist."
Walmart has until today (Aug. 27) to file its response to the lawsuit.
- See this Dallas Business Journal story
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