Aspen Dental settles case over misleading ads

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Health Care Section has reached a $175,000 consumer settlement with Aspen Dental over accusations that Aspen used confusing or misleading information about discounts, coupons, free denture consultations, interest-free financing, free initial exams, and other advertisements and promotions.

Attorney General Tom Corbett said an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) was reached with Aspen Dental Management, which provides management, equipment, and support services to 32 independently owned dental facilities across Pennsylvania. The attorney general's office received more than 50 complaints from consumers regarding Aspen Dental business practices, Corbett said.

"Consumers went to Aspen Dental because they believed they could obtain low-cost solutions to their dental problems, only to be faced with confusing limitations and restrictions on coupons and other promotions, or undisclosed details about financing," Corbett said in a press release.

According to the terms of the settlement, Aspen Dental will pay $125,000 in restitution to consumers who have had valid claims involving products or services that were purchased on or before May 28, 2009. Additionally, the settlement requires Aspen Dental to pay $50,039 in costs, which will be used to support future consumer protection activities by the attorney general's office.

Aspen Dental has cooperated with the attorney general's investigation and implemented changes in its policies in May 2009 based on concerns raised by the Health Care Section, Corbett noted.

The AVC also requires Aspen Dental to provide all consumers with a copy of their treatment and financing plan, including an itemized list of all services and fees, disclosure of any cancellation fees, terms of any guarantees or warranties, the total amount due, estimated monthly payments, and annual interest rate, Corbett said. Aspen Dental must also place clear and conspicuous statements in all future advertisements and promotions, explaining any limitation or special qualifications.

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