March 15, 2013
St. Charles, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster said today his office has reached a $53,000 settlement with the owners of a former St. Charles-based auto service contract business to settle claims of deception, unfair practices, and unlawful insurance practices.
Koster said the settlement involves Enterprise Warranty Group, LLC, which also did business under the name "Dealership Services" in 2008 and 2009. Defendants William Webb, Tina Smith, and Dustin Davis are ordered to pay $53,177. Defendant Jonathan Stubblefield is also permanently enjoined from selling unlawful auto service contracts in Missouri. The case was brought by the Attorney General and Director John Huff of the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.
According to Koster, Dealership Services operated a call center that sold vehicle breakdown coverage. The company marketed throughout the United States primarily through direct mail advertisements designed to urge consumers to "call immediately" for a limited-time extended warranty program that would save consumers thousands of dollars on repair bills. Once on the phone, salespeople would sell vehicle breakdown coverage with a generalized and often misleading description of the coverage. Many customers later discovered the contract was actually provided by a third party provider, and that the contract did not contain the coverage promised when the provider denied a repair claim. When consumers asked for a refund, they were forced to overcome numerous objections and delays to obtain a partial refund.
The injunctions against the defendants require them to reform their business practices in the offer and sale of vehicle service contracts if they ever sell in Missouri again. It also completely prohibits the sale of "additive contracts" in Missouri, which were structured by sellers as "product warranties" in a scheme to avoid the consumer protections required under insurance and service contract laws. Typically, a bottle of ordinary oil additive was mailed to the consumer with the written contract that only provided very limited breakdown protection and had no relationship to the performance of the product in the bottle.
The settlement establishes a restitution fund of $38,177 intended to provide a full refund to Missouri consumers who were sold this additive coverage. The settlement also provides the state $10,000 in costs that will be used for consumer law enforcement. The judgment imposes civil penalties and forfeitures in the amount of $5,000.
"We continue to obtain solid judgments against unlawful auto service contract sellers that provide restitution for Missouri consumers," Koster said. "Our office has been at the forefront of prosecuting businesses in this industry who do not respect our consumer laws."
Koster added, "Missouri law says consumers have a right to see a written service contract and agree to its terms," Koster added. "Customers who purchase vehicle repair coverage by telephone often later realize the significant limits to coverage in the written contract. It is important for Missouri consumers to protect themselves by carefully reviewing vehicle service contracts to make sure they contain the provisions promised."
"Most sellers of these extended service contracts must have a license from the Missouri Department of Insurance," said Insurance Director John M. Huff. "We encourage consumers to contact our department to make sure the seller is licensed and authorized to do business in Missouri."
Consumers can verify that a company is licensed to do business in Missouri by calling the Department of Insurance at 800-726-7390 or visiting insurance.mo.gov.
Any Missouri consumer who was defrauded in his/her purchase of coverage from Enterprise Warranty Group or Dealership Services, or any other auto service contract business, should submit a complaint to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 800-392-8222 or online at ago.mo.gov. Consumers should also report service contract complaints to the Department of Insurance at 800-726-7390 or insurance.mo.gov.