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February 8, 2003

M&T Bank shuts hearing aid chain

From: Rochester Democrat Chronicle, NY - 08 Feb 2003

By John Kohlstrand
Democrat and Chronicle

(February 8, 2003) — The doors of a financially troubled chain of hearing aid stores have been shut tight, leaving some customers in a lurch.

M&T Bank successfully sought a restraining order in state Supreme Court in Buffalo freezing the accounts of the company, Allstate Hearing Systems Inc.

“The doors are locked. We can’t get to our records,” said one of Allstate’s attorneys, Charles Schiano Jr.

As a result, it appears at least some customers who have purchased products there are out of luck, at least at the moment.

Among the frustrated customers is Anna Militello, an 82-year-old Irondequoit woman who said she had returned a $4,000 pair of Nu-Ear hearing aids for factory service because they seemed defective.

When she returned for the hearing aids, the store was closed. That was before Christmas. She said she hasn’t been able to get in touch with anyone at the company.

“$4,000 is a lot of money for anybody,” she said. “How can they do that to people?”

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office, which has received complaints from Militello and others, has become involved.

“This office will be doing whatever it can to protect the interest of consumers,” said Christine Pritchard, a spokeswoman. “We are trying to respond to the consumer complaints we have received so there is a positive resolution.”

Schiano said it is possible some hearing aids sent out for service have been returned. The problem is company representatives have not been able to get into the store, he said.

“We’re working with the attorney general’s office to open the doors again,” Schiano said.

Federal records indicate the company has not filed for bankruptcy.

Gannett Co. Inc., owner of the Democrat and Chronicle, filed a civil suit last week seeking payment of $21,000 in advertising bills.

The company had locations at 2256 Hudson Ave., 785 Spencerport Road, 714 Titus Ave. and Southtown Plaza in Henrietta. Telephone numbers at each site were out of order Friday.

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Copyright 2003 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.