February 12, 2009
You've probably received junk mail warning you that your car's warranty is about to expire, but offering an extended warranty for a reasonable price. In North Carolina, senior citizens have received calls from telemarketers pushing these bogus plans, despite being on the Do Not Call list.
"Calling people on the Do Not Call list and trying to trick them is no way to do business," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "We're taking action to stop the calls and try to win money back for consumers."
At Cooper's request, a Superior Court Judge entered a temporary restraining order against Automotive Protection of New Jersey and its manager Christopher Doyle. The order requires the defendants to stop illegally telemarketing North Carolinians and to quit taking their money.
Cooper contends that Automotive Protection targeted consumers aged 65 or older, called people who had signed up for the Do Not Call Registry to stop telemarketing calls, and misrepresented the terms of its auto warranties. He is asking the court to permanently stop the company's illegal telemarketing calls and deceptive sales practices, and to order the company to pay consumer refunds and civil penalties.
A total of 24 consumers complained to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division about the company's illegal calls, tricky sales tactics and refusal to pay refunds. Consumers' stories, filled as affidavits with Cooper's complaint, illustrate how the company has operated in North Carolina:
A Guilford County resident was promised that a $1,599 extended warranty would cover his car bumperto-bumper for four years. But when he got the contract, the warranty wasn't as good as the telemarketer had claimed. He called to cancel and was told he would get his $350 deposit back. Instead of returning his money, Automotive Protection charged $1,249 to his credit card.
A 74-year-old woman in Avery County agreed to buy a warranty for her Toyota for $2,050. She made a down payment of $200 but had second thoughts within the hour and tried to cancel. She repeatedly faxed in her cancellation form and was promised her money back, but Automotive Protection kept her $200 and the company's payment processor took an additional $154.13 from her bank account.
An 82-year-old resident of Pitt County was told that he had 30 days to review the car warranty contract before he'd be charged. But a few days later, he discovered that Automotive Protection had withdrawn $250 from his bank account using a fake check number. He wrote and called to cancel the contract but Automotive Protection's payment processor continued to try to bill him.
"Tough times bring out the scammers," Cooper said.