Attorney General Hardy Myers today filed a court action against a Portland company that specializes in re-built engines for misleading consumers by charging for unnecessary and unauthorized work. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed in Marion County Circuit Court are Rapid Fire Engine Supply and its president Patrick Smith.
"For decades, Oregonians have filed complaints against auto technicians resulting in auto repair consistently appearing on the Top Ten Consumer Complaint List," Myers said. "We will continue to be vigilant in our prosecution of unscrupulous auto repair companies but consumers must be more careful when contracting for car repairs."
Department of Justice investigators reviewed 13 complaints against Rapid Fire alleging that the company charged much more than the initial estimates and that the work was substandard, inappropriate and unnecessary. Consumers also complained that the work took considerably longer than the company promised.
In one particularly egregious incident, a consumer contracted for a rebuilt 350 horsepower engine but received a used 300 horsepower engine painted black to appear to be reconditioned.
Under the terms of the agreement, Rapid Fire Engine agrees to make significant changes in its operation by not charging more than the written service orders without written authorization from customers. The company also agrees to give customers detailed invoices listing charges for parts and labor separately and to indicate in writing whether new, rebuilt, reconditioned or used parts were used.
The company agrees not to promise a completion date knowing the work will not be done on that date and will pay for binding arbitration for all unresolved current and future complaints. Rapid Fire paid $12,500 to the Justice Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Oregon consumers should take some simple steps to help protect themselves against becoming victims of repair fraud. Ask friends for references and look for indications of being certified by nationally recognized organizations. Although these certifications do not guarantee that the technician is honest and does good work, it is an indication that the technician meets basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas.
`Consumers shopping for an auto repair shop should check for complaints filed with the Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau. Consumers should obtain more than one written estimate, always using the same description of the work to be done.
In addition, consumers should communicate directly with the person who will actually work on the car and never leave a vehicle to be repaired without specific instructions and several telephone numbers where to be reached.
For a free copy of a detailed brochure titled "Taking the Scare Out of Auto Repair," call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392 or write Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection, 1162 Court Street, N.E., Salem, OR 97310. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org