Ohio's Attorney General files lawsuit against 2 northeast Ohio hearing aid companies

Lawsuit claims deceptive sales practices

PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against American Hearing Centers Network LLC and Southland Hearing Center, charging them with deceptive sales practices and misleading consumers.

Owners Joseph Boles and Jeffrey Jones were named in the lawsuit, charging the Parma Heights hearing aid operation with multiple violations of Ohio consumer law, and not honoring long term service contracts.

More than 50 consumers, including George Gross of Parma, filed complaints with the with the Ohio Attorney General over the past 16 months.

Gross explained to NewsChannel5 Troubleshooter Joe Pagonakis how he bought a $3,200 hearing aid from Southland Hearing Center, back in Jan. 2011. The written purchase agreement also included the companies "tech care gold warranty." But Gross explained he found the Parma Heights location closed-up several months ago, without warning.

"I just feel they took advantage of older people that need hearing aids," said Gross. "A warranty on batteries for five years, and a lifetime contract. But if the office is closed, there's nothing lifetime about that."

The 11 page lawsuit filed by DeWine charges the company with running deceptive offers by telephone, and through the U.S. mail.

"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 '$3 million stimulus package' for Ohio, giving consumers the false impression that it was associated with the government."

In a news release from the Attorney General, DeWine outlined  the charges against American Hearing Centers Network, and Southland Hearing Center:

- 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.

So far, NewsChannel5 has been unable to reach Joseph Boles and Jeffery Jones by telephone for comment on the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, DeWine recommends consumers consult with a doctor before buying a hearing aid, and research hearing aid companies with his office, and Better Business Bureau before signing a contract..

DeWine reminds consumers in Ohio that they have 30 days to cancel the purchase of a hearing aid.

NewsChannel5 and newsnet5 will continue to follow-up on this developing story.

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