A San Diego couple is headed back to court over a billing dispute with a local dentist office, which NBC 7 Investigates discovered has 19 complaints and an "F"-rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Nancy and Peter Chen said they had their first interaction with All Smile Dental in Torrey Hills when Dr. Christine Chen made a full upper denture for Peter in 2010.
“We have dental insurance with United Concordia, and he can only have a denture made every five years, and we know — we knew it wasn’t time yet, so we told them that we would be paying in full,” said Nancy in an interview Friday.
The bill totaled $1,030, which they paid in full, out of pocket. But Nancy told NBC 7 the denture was not made well, so they tried to go to a specialist for a better one.
When the couple called their insurer, they said they learned All Smile Dental had also filed a claim with the Chen’s insurance company, and United Concordia had also paid the dentist $404.
The Chens did not ask for their money back, but they instead requested that the money be returned to their insurer. After some back and forth, the Chens got an appointment with Kenny Su, the business' manager and Dr. Chen's husband.
"He looked at the statement — their own account statement — and he say, 'I don't understand this because it's made by someone else in the office.' He's the business manager," said Nancy.
In Aug. 2011, the couple filed a small claims case against All Smile Dental, saying "enough is enough."
Three months later, a judge awarded the Chens the full amount of $929.10 after no one from the defendant’s side showed up in court, according to Nancy.
The office sent them a check for $552.13. The Chens said they cashed it and decided to forgive the difference, assuming the rest would go to their insurance company. But in May 2012, the couple received a bill for $408.39 from All Smile Dental.
Nancy and Peter said they wrote the office a letter, telling them it was a mistake and to stop harassing them, but the bills kept coming — with added interest.
Then last month, they received a late-night knock on the door. They had been served. All Smile Dental is suing them for $2,480, with a claim saying the Chens have “breached written agreements to pay for dental services rendered.”
“I feel this is [Su's] way of doing things and unless someone gets to him, he’ll continue,” said Nancy.
NBC 7 Investigates checked on All Smile Dental’s standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). We found 19 complaints against the company, many of them mentioning similar types of billing issues.
“And we’ve even had complaints of retribution where the dentist is charging more money after a consumer has filed a complaint,” said Sheryl Reichert with San Diego’s BBB.
She said of the 1,150 dentists in their system, only 150 have complaints. There are only two dentists in the system with more than five complaints.
Nancy told NBC 7 Investigates she plans to keep fighting the case in court, though it’s adding extra stress to her life.
“My husband’s health is deteriorating. He’s now with hospice care, and I’m his sole caretaker,” she said, “so this is certainly not anything that we need.”
NBC 7 Investigates stopped by All Smile Dental on Friday for comment and emailed questions to their business manager, who has not yet responded. Peter and Nancy will be back in court in February to respond to the office’s claim.