In Ohio, a business can’t advertise products or services as free when the cost of the “free” item is passed on to the consumer.
Nevertheless, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine found that a Northeast Ohio hearing aid seller that offered “free” hearing aids and hearing aid fittings was misleading older Ohioans.
In late October, Attorney General DeWine filed a lawsuit against American Hearing Centers Network LLC and Southland Hearing Center for misrepresenting products and services they offered to older Ohioans. The businesses were based in Parma Heights. American Hearing Centers Network also had locations in Mansfield, Akron, Mount Vernon, and Brunswick.
The businesses sent letters and called Ohioans at home inviting them to events at which they would be screened and fitted for hearing aids at no cost.
When consumers attended the events, the businesses’ representatives informed consumers they would need to pay only for batteries and warranties. They also encouraged consumers to pay using a financing service called Care Credit. Some consumers didn’t realize they were signing up for a credit account and later were surprised when they received a Care Credit bill for thousands of dollars.
The Attorney General found that in some cases the businesses opened financing accounts without consumers' authorization and failed to honor consumers’ right to cancel the hearing aid purchase within 30 days, as required under Ohio law.
The lawsuit charged the defendants with multiple violations of Ohio’s consumer laws and asked the court to order them to reimburse affected consumers and to stop violating the law. The case is pending.
If you are considering buying a hearing aid, follow these tips to protect yourself as a consumer:
Consult with a doctor before buying a hearing aid.
Research hearing aid sellers with the Ohio Attorney General's Office and Better Business Bureau before making any payments or signing any documents.
Be skeptical of the word "free," especially if you're asked to open an account or provide personal information to obtain the free goods or services.
Be aware that, in Ohio, you have 30 days to cancel the purchase of a hearing aid.
To file a complaint or learn more about the Attorney General’s case against American Hearing Centers Network and Southland Hearing Center, visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
or call 800-282-0515.