In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announced a $3.5 million settlement with Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (Aspen Dental) resolving claims that the dental chain cheated thousands of Massachusetts consumers through a series of bait-and-switch advertising campaigns.
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court today, settles a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Maura Healey in December 2021 alleging that Aspen Dental violated the state Consumer Protection Law and the assurances Aspen Dental made to the AG’s Office in a 2014 settlement addressing similar conduct.
According to the AG’s lawsuit, Aspen Dental engaged in numerous deceptive advertising and marketing practices, including charging patients for services it advertised as “free,” as well as advertising that it worked with “all” insurance when it did not accept MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program that includes dental coverage.
The consent judgment follows an April 2022 court order that prohibited Aspen Dental from running “all insurance” advertisements without adequate disclosures.
“Deceptive advertisements like these can harm our most vulnerable patients looking for affordable dental care,” said Acting AG Bessie Dewar. “Today’s settlement prevents misleading advertising by Aspen Dental and puts money back in the hands of impacted patients.”
The AG’s lawsuit alleged that Aspen Dental engaged in a multi-faceted scheme to deceive consumers into purchasing dental services and products at the more than 25 Aspen Dental-branded dental offices in Massachusetts. According to the lawsuit, Aspen Dental also sent consumers to collections over bills for services it had advertised as “free.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Aspen Dental will pay $3.5 million including by returning up to $750,000 to patients who paid for new patient examinations, x-rays and oral cancer screenings at Massachusetts Aspen Dental-branded offices.
The settlement also prohibits Aspen Dental from using advertisements that misleadingly offer “free” services, state that Aspen Dental works with “all” insurance, reference guarantees or denture prices, or indicate that Aspen Dental offices have “no hidden fees.” It also contains restrictions related to communications concerning oral cancer screenings and debt collection.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Ethan Marks and Emiliano Mazlen of the AG’s Health Care Division, with assistance from Division Chief Eric Gold, Assistant Attorney General Michael Wong, Paralegal Maya Al-Ahmad, and Mediator Juan Sosa of the AG’s Health Care Division and Senior Investigator Anthony Crespi of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.