Consumers Say Autoplex Continues To Use Unethical Sales Practices, BBB Warns

  
     
Autoplex Extended Services promised in December to respond to consumer complaints, but continues to let many issues go unanswered.
April 18, 2014

Autoplex Extended ServicesSt. Louis, Mo. – More than four months after Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued an alert on St. Charles-based Autoplex Extended Services, consumers continue to complain about the company’s sale of vehicle service contracts.

The complaints are almost identical to those that prompted BBB’s December warning, said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. Most involve misleading advertising, high-pressure and deceptive phone sales and an unwillingness to cancel agreements and issue refunds. Consumers who contacted BBB describe company salespeople as mocking and  bullying.

“I have never been treated like this in my life,” said a woman from Quanah, Texas, who said she and her husband tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to cancel a contract last month. “When I became seriously upset and (began) crying, (the saleswoman) said, ‘Ma’am, you must be a great actress.’”

Autoplex has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible. BBB has received more than 40 additional complaints against the business since issuing the warning in December. At that time, Autoplex President Keith Horneker said the company intended to respond to consumer complaints filed with BBB. As of the morning of Thursday, April 17, 2014, 20 complaints had gone unanswered.

Consumers from 32 states have filed about 150 complaints against the business. The largest numbers have come from Florida (31), Texas (22), New York (10) and Louisiana (9).

BBB’s Corey said that few vehicle contract sales centers have been the target of as much consumer frustration as Autoplex.

 “The stories these consumers tell us about how they were treated are unbelievable,” Corey said. “It is hard to imagine that any business can condone this type of behavior from its employees.”

Autoplex operates a call center at 2410 Highway 94 South Outer Road. Salespeople in the office answer phone calls from consumers, who usually are responding to a mailer from the business marked “FINAL NOTICE” and “EXTREMELY URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE.”

The mailers note that a recipient’s factory warranty “has expired or is about to expire” and includes a phone number to call to speak with a company representative.

Consumers have complained that the mailing is misleading because it appears to be an official notice from their auto manufacturer or a government agency.

The mailings do not identify Autoplex as the business sending the solicitations. The company identifies itself only as Motor Vehicle Services. Motor Vehicle Services is a trade name used by several vehicle service contract sales firms.

In December, BBB pointed out that Autoplex’s mailings identified the company as Department of Motor Vehicle Services. Horneker said then that his company had not authorized the use of that name and ordered it changed. Recent mailings are virtually identical, except the name has been changed to Motor Vehicle Services.

A couple from Babson Park, Fla., said they responded to a mailing last month because they believed it had been sent by General Motors. They said a sales representative convinced them to purchase a service contract for $395 down and to make monthly payments. They said they did not realize who they were dealing with until they discovered the name Autoplex on the credit card statement. The wife said she called back almost immediately to cancel the agreement. She said the sales representative ridiculed her and “asked if we had caretakers he could talk to. He made us feel like old, stupid people,” she said.

A woman from Claymont, Del., said she thought the mailing was an offer to extend her dealership warranty. It was not until several months later that she discovered multiple complaints about Autoplex on the Internet and tried to cancel.  She said she could not reach anyone who would tell her how to cancel the contract. “They were making me go around in circles,” she said. “It’s driving me absolutely up a wall.”

The woman said she ultimately felt compelled to cancel her credit card and close the account so the company could not withdraw additional payments.

A man from Blue Bell, Pa., said he became disillusioned with a service contract after trying to use it for a $1,500 repair. He said a contract administrator told him the breakdown was for a pre-existing problem, even though he had had his car checked by the dealership just before he purchased the service agreement.  “They never intended to honor the warranty,” he said.

In an email response from Autoplex to BBB, the company said it is working to respond and resolve all outstanding complaints. “The cancelation procedures simply require the customer to send us a written letter of cancellation; that’s it. All refunds to customers are refunded the very same day that the policy is canceled.”

BBB offers the following tips to consumers considering whether to buy an auto service agreement:

  • Find out if you already are insured. Some companies that market vehicle repair contracts send notices that a consumer’s factory or dealer warranty has expired or is about to expire.  Call your dealer to find out if you are still covered and how long the coverage will last.
  • Determine whether you need a service contract. Senior citizens and others whose driving is limited, or whose vehicles have very low mileage, may decide that coverage for mechanical breakdowns is unnecessary. 
  • Do your homework. If you speak with someone representing a vehicle protection program, ask for the official name of the company and where it is registered. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at http://www.bbb.org/ or by calling 314-645-3300. If there is a separate service administrator or finance company, research that business, too.
  • Check with insurance officials in your state to determine whether the company has the proper licenses and/or registration to do business.
  • Inspect the contract closely before agreeing to anything. Read the fine print for terms and conditions. Some consumers say they were promised “bumper-to-bumper” coverage by a phone salesperson, only to learn later that some breakdowns or problems were not covered.
  • If you sell the covered vehicle or simply decide to cancel your protection plan, find out if you are entitled to a prorated refund for the unused portion of your contract.

 

Media Contact: Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 645-0606, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org

Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), communications@stlouisbbb.org

Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, tpc1@stlouisbbb.org

About BBB

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