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Suit alleges dental chain cheated Mass. consumers with deceptive ads

An Aspen Dental location in Tampa, Fla. (Casey Brooke Lawson/AP Images for Aspen Dental)
An Aspen Dental location in Tampa, Fla. (Casey Brooke Lawson/AP Images for Aspen Dental)

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.

A spokeswoman for Aspen Dental said the company had cooperated with the Attorney General's office "since the beginning," and intended to dispute the allegations in court.

"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," the company spokesperson said.

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."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a statement from Aspen Dental.

This article was originally published on December 10, 2021.

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