BOSTON (State House News Service) – Thousands of Massachusetts patients were victimized through deceptive advertising by Aspen Dental, according to a lawsuit filed against the dental chain on Thursday by Attorney General Maura Healey.
Healey alleges that Aspen Dental falsely advertised “free” dental services to patients in violation of state consumer protection laws and a settlement the company reached in 2014 with attorney general’s office to resolve similar complaints.
“Aspen Dental took advantage of vulnerable consumers in need of dental care and used misleading advertising to lure them into their offices under false pretenses,” Healey said in a statement. “We’re suing this company for violating both state law and its earlier promises not to engage in precisely these illegal practices, and we’re seeking restitution for patients harmed by this misconduct.”
In the Suffolk Superior Court complaint, Healey accused the company of charging patients, including those seeking emergency care, for services it advertised as free, without disclosing limitations to that policy. The company also trained scheduling center employees not to advise potential patients of certain fees associated with emergency appointments, and “deceptively advertised” the price of dentures and the existence of money-back guarantees, according to the allegations.
Aspen Dental operates more than 25 offices in Massachusetts, and brought in more than $389 million in net patient revenue from its Massachusetts locations from December 2014 to January 2019, according to the attorney general.
Healey said she was seeking to bar the company from continuing the marketing practices that she described as “unlawful,” as well as restitution for Massachusetts consumers and “substantial civil penalties and costs to the state.”
“Sadly, the Massachusetts Attorney General has brought a lawsuit based on overblown rhetoric that’s inconsistent with its own actions. The Attorney General is relying on old information gathered during the course of an investigation that’s now lasted for more than 5-years. They try to make up in sound and fury what the charges lack in merit. The approach is obviously designed to grab headlines. Not surprisingly, we intend to fight this case.
We have been cooperating with the AG’s office since the beginning. We’ve not only responded to their massive demands, but most, if not all of the concerns raised by the AG’s office that we’ve known about were addressed long ago, whether we agreed with them or not. In fact, a judge observed on the record that we acted in good faith during the AG’s multi-year investigation and declined to order sanctions against us that the AG sought.
Aspen Dental was founded with a mission of breaking down barriers to care. The company has worked for years in Massachusetts to lower the barriers to quality dental care in the neighborhoods that needed it most. Each independently-owned Aspen Dental-branded practice in Massachusetts serves its patients through Massachusetts-licensed dentists and other licensed healthcare professionals. They serve their communities each and every day in pursuit of that mission, including offering free care to more than 1,000 Veterans through the company’s Healthy Mouth Movement.
We’re proud of the services we provide to support the independent practice owners in Massachusetts, enabling them to provide care for more than 200,000 patient visits each year in the state – the vast majority who are repeat customers. The thousands of patients who choose to walk into the Aspen Dental practices each day are the largest rebuke we can think of against the allegations made by the AG.”Statement provided to 22News from: Aspen Dental Spokesperson
This story has been updated to include the statement from Aspen Dental