A dental group with practices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — including four on the South Coast — has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the state Attorney General's office for allegedly deceptive advertising.

Former A.G. Maura Healey filed the suit in December 2021 claiming that Aspen Dental Management, Inc. violated state consumer protections — again — by using what her office called "bait-and-switch" marketing tactics.

Aspen had previously paid $1 million in a 2014 settlement with the A.G.'s office over what the office called "similar conduct."

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The A.G.'s office claimed in the December suit that Aspen locations "cheated thousands of Massachusetts consumers through a series of bait-and-switch advertising campaigns."

These included charging patients for services Aspen had advertised as being free, and advertising that their locations work with "all" insurance despite not accepting MassHealth dental coverage, according to the office.

In some instances, the lawsuit alleges, Aspen Dental sent consumers to collections over bills for services that had been advertised as "free."

Aspen Dental representatives did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement.

According to the A.G.'s office, Aspen violated its own assurances made to the office after the 2014 settlement.

A court order last April had banned Aspen from claiming that they work with all insurance providers without full disclosure.

The dental group will return up to $750,000 to patients as part of the $3.5 million settlement.

It is also prohibited from using ads that mislead consumers.

The group has 25 locations in Massachusetts and four on the SouthCoast: in Dartmouth, Wareham, Fall River, and West Raynham.

Acting Attorney General Bessie Dewar said, "Deceptive advertisements like these can harm our most vulnerable patients looking for affordable dental care."

"Today’s settlement prevents misleading advertising by Aspen Dental and puts money back in the hands of impacted patients," she noted.

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