A popular cosmetic surgery center in South Florida has agreed to refund money paid by customers for surgeries they never performed, the Florida Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday. The announcement closes an investigation that found the business was "deceptive and unfair toward consumers in connection with refunds."
The AG’s investigation followed an NBC 6 investigation into the nearly 50 complaints about Vanity Cosmetics filed with state and local agencies. The complaints showed a pattern of reported problems with refunds. Ten additional complaints were filed after the investigation aired. The AG’s office announced it was investigating Vanity in January 2016.
"Vanity Cosmetic Surgery failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms and conditions of the transaction to consumers, failed to honor their refund policy, failed to honor consumers' request for refunds and failed to issue promised refunds," state officials said.
Customers claimed that they paid hundreds and in some cases even thousands of dollars for services they never received. And even when the surgery was canceled by a surgeon, the company kept the money and refused to refund customers.
The state says more than 70 people have been refunded approximately $190,000 so far.
Vanity and its owners must pay $27,844 in restitution funds to cover the remaining claims of individuals who have already filed complaints with the AG’s office and the Better Business Bureau.
In addition, the agreement says that Vanity has to put $10,000 in escrow funds to satisfy future consumer restitution; pay $53,000 for attorney’s fees, costs and investigative fees.
"Vanity Cosmetic Surgery cooperated with the Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office and voluntarily entered into an assurance of voluntary compliance without any admission of liability," the announcement read.
"The investigation is concluded, an agreement was reached and the case is closed," said Vanity attorney Alexandra Lopez of the Gallardo Law Firm.
The AG’s office release lists other names Vanity is known as to customers including Vanidades Cosmetic Surgery, West Dade Surgery Center, Inc., Broward Cosmetic Surgery, Inc., Encore Plastic Surgery, Inc., The Center for Cosmetic Surgery, Inc., Florida Aesthetic Surgery Center, Inc., Cosmetics Miami, Inc., BC Surgical Center, Inc., Ismael Labrador and Aimee De La Rosa.
The attorney general’s office said that Vanity, which shut down in September, must meet the terms of the agreement. Those include:
-Clearly and conspicuously disclose to consumers all the material terms and conditions of any transaction before obtaining the consumers’ billing information, charging the consumers, and/or soliciting payment for any product sold and/or service provided.
-Stop making any representations that a product and/or service is free of charge, if is not.
-Ensure that any subcontractors, companies and/or individuals employed, engaged or utilized by Vanity Cosmetic Surgery are licensed properly in Florida.
-Ensure that all statements, representations, or claims on Vanity’s websites or any other marketing or promotional materials are accurate.
-Ensure that any and all disclaimers and policies are clearly and conspicuously disclosed to consumers.
-Issue refunds within 21 calendar days from the date the consumer requests the refund and maintain a customer support telephone number and/or email address for consumers to file complaints and ensure those consumer complaints are responded to within seven business days.
-Ensure that any and all businesses owned or operated by Vanity are registered with the state of Florida.
In addition Vanity has agreed to pay restitution for eligible consumers who have not yet received a refund, and will also pay for the costs of the state investigation.
Vanity Cosmetics is closed but the new owner has reopened in the same location with a different name. A spokesperson told the NBC 6 Investigators that at least two surgeons from Vanity have been hired to work at the new company.
Consumers who filed complaints with the AG’s office will receive instructions by mail indicating how to obtain refund checks. Those who have not filed a complaint about Vanity Cosmetic Surgery or any other business can do so by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com or calling 1-866-NO-SCAM.