Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster took aim at the industry this week by suing six companies that market the so-called warranties and warning the public that what is being pitched isn't what you end up with. He said the industry is "rife with fraud."
Koster said what consumers are actually buying into are limited "service contracts" or "automotive additives" deals rather than a traditional warranty. That was done to avoid consumer protections otherwise afforded by law, he said in a news release.
The contracts are filled with catches. Among them:
- A 30 to 90 day (or 1,000 miles) timeframe when you can't make a claim.
- Promotion of a 7-year, 100,000 miles warranty extension that doesn't note coverage is limited to the declining value of the car. (In other words, Koster said, "The coverage may soon be less than the price paid by the consumer for the contact).
- Sending an additive to be put into your car immediately to activate coverage without noting that its use negates the ability to cancel.
"These businesses are using a 'bait and switch' scheme and preying on consumers' fears of not having adequate vehicle warranty coverage," Koster said in a statement. "They lured vulnerable consumers into purchasing 'auto warranties,' and then switched to sell them into service contracts and auto additive warranties with inferior or negligible repair coverage, while making it almost impossible for the consumers to cancel the contract or get refunds.
"I believe this auto warranty business continues to be rife with fraud..."
Consumers were typically sold these contracts by direct mail or telemarketing, with the claim that their coverage was about to expire.
The six businesses sued for allegedly using unfair and deceptive trade practices are:
- National Dealers Warranty, Inc., d/b/a/ StopRepairBills.com
- Warranty Activation Headquarters, Inc., d/b/a/ Nationwide Automotive Protection
- Extended Warranty Corporation, Inc., d/b/a/ Key Protection Group
- Dealers Warranty, LLC, d/b/a/ MOGI
- U.S. Auto Warranty
- Dealer Warranty Services
Koster is seeking injunctions against the businesses to stop the allegedly shady marketing practices as well as to collect restitution for consumers.
The FTC offers some helpful tips for those considering extended auto warranties.