CLEVELAND–Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed lawsuits last week against two hearing aid dispensing businesses in northeast Ohio, accusing them and their owners of multiple violations of consumer law, including misrepresenting products and services.
Named in the October 24 announcement were American Hearing Centers Network LLC, owned by Joseph Boles, and Southland Hearing Center, owned by Jeffrey Jones. American Hearing Centers is based in Medina, while Southland has, or at least had, offices in Brunswick, Mansfield, Akron, Mount Vernon, and Parma Heights.
General DeWine stated, “These businesses routinely misled consumers, offering ‘free’ hearing aids then charging consumers thousands of dollars. They even sent a letter announcing a ‘three-million dollar stimulus package’ for Ohio, giving consumers the false impression that it was associated with the government.”
According to the lawsuit, the defendants sent direct mail solicitations and called older people at home inviting them to events where they would be screened and fitted for free hearing aids. When consumers attended the events, representatives of the businesses told them that they would need to pay only for batteries and warranties, and they encouraged consumers to pay using a financing service. Some consumers later were surprised to receive a bill for thousands of dollars from the financing service.
The attorney general accused the two businesses of opening financing accounts without consumers’ authorization; failing to honor consumers’ right to cancel hearing aid sales within 30 days; failing to return hearing aids sent to the businesses for repairs; and failing to honor warranties for hearing aids and batteries.
The lawsuit seeks consumer restitution, permanent injunctive relief, and civil penalties.
This blog’s attempts to reach the two companies and their owners for company were unsuccessful. The listed telephone numbers for them had been disconnected or were no longer in service.
The media contact in DeWine’s office did not know as of October 29 if the accused men had responded to the charges against them.
A web search turned up no web site or e-mail listing for either American Hearing Centers Network or Southland Hearing Center, but it did reveal that the local Better Business Bureau had given both F ratings because of a large number of unresolved consumer complaints.
The Ohio attorney general advised consumers who had lost money to contact his office at 800/282-0515.