We all went through it last year, not just the pandemic, but everything from social change to consumer habits. Bullshit was on the rise as well. A study done by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) details just how bad it got last year.
The study is a collection of over 280,000 complaints compiled from 34 agencies at both the state and local level in 18 states. It not only details the complaints but also the outcomes of the complaints as well. Many agencies are helpful at getting consumers their money back. A lot of these are just another indicator that dealers aren’t the only problematic element related to cars, as auto-related stuff topped the study’s list of complaint areas.
Take an elderly woman in Arkansas who was ill. The dealer manipulated her into a car. When she went to get out of it and tried to get her money back, they said they would do it but never did:
Another new car complaint last year involved an older woman, in ill health, who was manipulated into financing the purchase of an expensive vehicle she did not really want. The dealer told her it would rescind the sale but failed to follow through. The same empty promise was made when the consumer agency contacted the dealer. After repeated calls, however, the contract for $22,276 was finally canceled.
Or a man in New Mexico who went in to get his engine replaced. He was charged over $5,000 by the shop and they never did the work. He complained to the BBB and the shop said it would pay him back in payments and never did:
A New Mexico man paid an auto body shop $5,704.95 to replace the motor in his car, but the work was never done and the shop ignored his demand for a refund. He complained to the Better Business Bureau and the business agreed to pay him back in installments. It never made any payments. After the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office contacted the shop, the man received a full refund.
Another complaint details a woman in Florida who went to put money in her meter but found the meter frozen. Someone told her that no tickets were being given out because of the pandemic. But the privately-owned lot had other ideas, as she was given a $75 citation. After a denied appeal and being ignored by the company, she reached out to the state’s consumer protection bureau. Only then did they throw out the ticket.
These are just a few of the many examples; you can read the full report down below. The autos section with real-world examples starts on page 29, and includes more gems like this one:
With a coupon from a co-worker for a free oil change at Valvoline, a Massachusetts man happily drove to the shop for that and new air filter. His car was operating fine when he brought it in, but when he pulled out of the garage bay, he noticed the red oil indicator light was on. The technician told him to turn the car off, then turn the key to on, step on the brake and gas pedal at the same time, and hold it for thirty seconds to reset the oil light. That seemed to do the trick. About a week later, however, he heard a clicking noise while driving. Returning to Valvoline, he asked if the air filter had been installed correctly. He was told it was, and that the clicking noise was a bad belt. On the way home, the car started to smoke, so he pulled over and had it towed to a dealer, who informed him that there was catastrophic damage to the engine, which would cost $9,518 to fix. The Consumer Assistance Council contacted the company’s headquarters on his behalf. Since the cost of the repairs was more than the car was worth, Valvoline offered him $8,091 (the private-sale value of the car plus a refund for the amount he paid for the service), and he could keep the car, in exchange for a release. He gladly accepted.