AG Shapiro Stops Deceptive Marketing by Drug Treatment Center

February 12, 2021 | Topic: Consumers

Settlement Addresses Concerns Over Tactics Used To Mislead Patients

HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that his office entered into a settlement with Freedom Healthcare of America, LLC, (Freedom Healthcare) a Tennessee-based addiction treatment provider. The settlement addresses concerns that Freedom Healthcare used deceptive marketing tactics on thousands of Pennsylvanians who were seeking addiction treatment for themselves or their loved ones.

“The opioid epidemic continues to plague Pennsylvanians across our state and people seeking treatment for themselves or loved ones have a right to straightforward information,” said AG Shapiro. “Deceptive practices prey on Pennsylvanians who simply seek to overcome the grips of addiction.”

The settlement, in the form of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (“AVC”), addresses concerns that Freedom Healthcare’s prior marketing tactics through its website misled Pennsylvanians to pick their treatment centers, all for the company’s monetary benefit. Among other things, the AVC addresses concerns that its marketing through that website may have misrepresented to the consumer that it was an impartial third party resource. Under the terms of the AVC, Freedom Healthcare is paying a total of $100,000 including $88,000 to be allocated for a Pennsylvania nonprofit providing financial assistance for addiction treatment.

The AVC includes details that Freedom Healthcare’s website used the name and information of other third-party treatment providers that they neither own nor operate. Freedom Healthcare placed its phone numbers near the other providers’ information without adequate branding, according to the AVC.

Additionally, the settlement addresses concerns that Freedom Healthcare’s website funneled consumers to what were called “treatment specialists” for a consumer to call for assistance in deciding which treatment provider to use. This terminology, according to the AVC, implied that the website was a third-party referral site that would provide independent and informed recommendations to those in need of treatment. The AVC alleges these “treatment specialists” had no particular training or experience and referred consumers almost exclusively to the company’s own treatment providers.

Freedom Healthcare has cooperated with the Office of Attorney General’s investigation. In addition to the monetary payment, the company also agreed to the following measures with respect to its future business practices:

  • A prohibition on violating the Consumer Protection Law.
  • A prohibition on misrepresenting to consumers that the company is a third-party and otherwise prohibiting the company from using deceptive terms in its advertising and marketing.
  • A prohibition on providing compensation for patient referrals.
  • A prohibition on using any directory style website that refers to a provider not owned or operated by the company.

The AVC will be filed with the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas.

# # #