(CLEVELAND, Ohio) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today filed a lawsuit against American Hearing Centers Network LLC, Southland Hearing Center, and owners Joseph Boles and Jeffrey Jones. The lawsuit charges the Parma Heights hearing aid operations with multiple violations of Ohio consumer law, including misrepresenting products and services to older Ohioans.
"We are committed to protecting Ohio's families from unfair business practices, especially those that target older Ohioans," Attorney General DeWine said. "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 Attorney General's lawsuit, the defendants offered hearing screenings and hearing aids to consumers in Ohio. They sent direct mail solicitations and called Ohioans 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 called "CareCredit." Some consumers later were surprised when they received a CareCredit bill for thousands of dollars.
The Attorney General found that the businesses:
Opened financing accounts without consumers' authorization;
Failed to honor consumers' right to cancel hearing aid sales within 30 days;
Failed to return hearing aids sent to the businesses for repairs;
Failed to honor warranties for hearing aids and batteries; and
Failed to register as telephone solicitors in Ohio.
The lawsuit charges the defendants with violating Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act and Telephone Solicitation Sales Act. The lawsuit seeks consumer restitution, permanent injunctive relief, and civil penalties.
Joseph Boles of Medina, Ohio, is the owner of American Hearing Centers Network. Jeffrey Jones of Brunswick, Ohio, is the owner and registered agent for Southland Hearing Center. On its purchase agreement, American Hearing Centers Network lists five locations-in Brunswick, Mansfield, Akron, Mount Vernon, and Parma Heights. The defendants also operated under the name North American Hearing.
Attorney General DeWine offers consumers the following tips to protect themselves:
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.
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.
Understand that in Ohio, you have 30 days to cancel the purchase of a hearing aid.
Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly by these companies or in any consumer transaction should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
American Hearing Centers Network (PDF)
Dan Tierney -- 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti -- 614-466-3840