SmileDirectClub, a telehealth company that sold teeth straightening devices through the mail and was criticized by medical groups, announced Friday that it was closing.
The company, founded in 2014, sold dental aligners online and in its stores for $1,850. He marketed them as a quicker and cheaper alternative to braces. SmileDirectClub’s IPO in 2019 valued it at $8.9 billion.
SmileDirectClub has served more than two million customers for almost a decade. But the company was unprofitable and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September with nearly $900 million in debt, according to court filings and financial statements. And this year, it settled a lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia attorney general’s office that accused the company of using confidentiality clauses to stifle consumer criticism.
Friday, SmileDirectClub says on its website that it immediately shut down its global operations. He apologized to customers for the inconvenience and urged them to consult a doctor or dentist about future treatment.
Pending orders have been canceled, the company said. Customers on a monthly installment payment plan must continue to make all their payments. Those who have completed the treatment will no longer be able to benefit from the free touch-ups guaranteed by the company.
For customers seeking refunds, SmileDirectClub said it will have more information “once the bankruptcy process determines next steps.”
SmileDirectClub was founded in Nashville by childhood friends Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman. To order their products, customers made a mold of their teeth at home with a kit sent by the company or had their teeth scanned at a “SmileShop” point of sale. The scans were reviewed by dentists and orthodontists in the company’s network.
SmileDirectClub’s services, which did not require in-person visits, had drawn criticism from dentist and orthodontist groups. The company sued some of those critics and accused the California Dental Board of stifling competition.
After going public, the company’s shares traded at around $18 apiece, but then became a penny stock. As the company failed to turn a profit, it also faced legal battles throughout its existence and disgruntled customers who accused it of false advertising and violating food regulations. and Drug Administration.
SmileDirectClub offered refunds within 30 days of its aligners arriving, but anything after that was considered outside of the company’s official refund policy and came with a non-disclosure clause. , the New York Times reported in 2020. The agreement prohibited customers from informing others of the refund and required asking them to remove negative social media posts and reviews.
The District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office sued the company in 2022, accusing it of preventing customers who had been harmed by its products from filing complaints with regulators or law enforcement. Under a settlement to resolve the litigation earlier this year, SmileDirectClub had to release more than 17,000 customers from the agreements and pay $500,000 to the district. The company said in the settlement that it did not violate the law or engage in unfair or deceptive practices.