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SmileDirectClub winds down operations — but customers are told to keep paying

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SmileDirectClub Inc. said late Friday it was winding down operations, effective immediately, seeming to cast its millions of customers adrift — except when it comes to their bills.

SmileDirectClub
SDCCQ,
-45.32%

said in a statement that its aligner treatment is not available to new customers. For existing customers, the company said, “we apologize for the inconvenience, but customer care support is no longer available” through its telehealth program, including periodic check-ins.

The company did not immediately return a request for comment.

People on the company’s SmilePay plan will need to make all payments until paid in full, the company said. SmileDirect also ended its lifetime guarantee.

For those seeking refunds, the company said that “there will be more information to come once the bankruptcy process determines next steps and additional measures customers can take.”

The company in late September filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it was seeking to find investors for a “comprehensive recapitalization.” In January, it laid off workers and ended a few international operations in a bid to become profitable.

The company has long attracted criticism for its teledentistry model, which it has said aims to disrupt the orthodontics industry. There were allegations a few years ago that it had harmed customers by breaking teeth and causing nerve damage, which the company denied.

Setbacks also include a scathing report from a short seller; regulatory action in California, Alabama and Georgia; and opposition to the company’s business practices from medical organizations including the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontists.

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