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Post date: August 3 1999

Wny Hearing Aid Business Faces State Lawsuit

Attorney General Spitzer today filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Niagara County hearing aid business for failing to return thousands of dollars in refunds due to customers and for other deceptive and fraudulent business practices.

The lawsuit, filed in Erie County Court, alleges that Stephen and Lynn Capuson -- owners of "Hear Mart" Hearing Aid Centers in Western New York -- repeatedly failed to provide refunds for hearing aids that were returned within 30 days of the purchase, as required by State law. The couple is also accused of charging excessive cancellation fees on customers who returned products.

"Common decency should have compelled the owners of this business to make appropriate refunds to consumers," Spitzer said. "Since these individuals chose not to do so, our office was forced to intervene and seek restitution for the senior citizens, many of whom who lacked the resources and ability to fight for themselves."

According to the lawsuit, at least 14 senior citizens returned their hearing aids within the 30-day period and were promised refunds for as much as $2,250 each. None of the customers received their money, however, and the Capusons later closed their stores.

The suit alleges that the Capusons continued to sell hearing aids to elderly consumers in the face of mounting financial problems. Rather than hold onto the proceeds for the 30-day return period, they spent the money. When several customers later returned their hearing aids and sought refunds, the owners accepted return and assured them that their refunds would be sent to them shortly.

The suit also alleges that the Capusons also failed to disclose to customers who pre-paid for hearing aids that they were about to cease operations. In a number of cases, they accepted deposits from consumers for hearing aids that were never provided.

Spitzer's office is seeking at least $30,000 from the Capusons for refunds. The office also asks the court to bar the Capusons from the hearing aid and examination business unless they post a $100,000 bond with the Attorney General's office to ensure future compliance with the law.

The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties of $500 for each illegal act and an additional $10,000 under a State law that raises penalties for deceptive acts perpetrated against the elderly that results in severe financial or property loss or leaves a senior substantially more vulnerable because of age, poor health, infirmity, impaired understanding, restricted mobility or disability.

Any individual interested in filing a complaint against "Hear Me Now'" Ltd. doing business as Hear Mart Hearing Aid Centers or its owners, the Capusons, is encouraged to call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (800) 771-7755.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James M. Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office.