Action 9 investigates medical Groupons

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ORLANDO,Fla. - An Orange County woman claims she lost thousands buying a Groupon for a surgery that could not be used.

Signe Vaughan said she was a Groupon fan. But not after buying a $3,000 Groupon she was giving to a family member for liposuction.

"Now's the time I've got the money and I can do this for her," said Vaughan.

But Vaughan said the doctor's office found the family member could not have the surgery.

Vaughan thought Groupons refund policy had her covered.

"It was very clearly stated that if it was a no go, I got the money back," said Vaughan.

According to Vaughan, Groupon rejected her refund request. Instead, in an email, Groupon said she could sell it to someone or receive Groupon credits, but no cash back.

"I think this is completely irresponsible of Groupon to not honor their word," said Vaughan.

Other customers had trouble getting medical refunds, according to research by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Groupon has an A rating at the BBB, and 450 complaints. The company would not say how many involve medical Groupons.

There's another issue: Many health attorneys suggest websites selling big discount coupons for medical treatment are controversial and may be illegal.

Florida bans doctors from collecting referral fees because the state believes that could influence medical decisions about a patient's needs.

Some attorneys said if Groupon keeps half the coupon price, it's a referral fee and a big problem.

"You don't want people walking around selling packages. It's the medical profession. It's professional. They're not hawking it on the street," said attorney Michael Agranoff.

Groupon told Action 9 it follows all state laws, and said Vaughan had not sent all the proof it needed for a refund.

A few days later she got all her money back.

"That's a lot of money, $3,000. It's not dinner for two," said Vaughan.

Groupon said its employee made a mistake by offering credit only instead of a refund.

Florida regulators told Action 9 the issue of coupon companies splitting fees with doctors had not been discussed.