EZ Lube Accused of Cheating Customers

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A California consumer affairs agency has filed a complaint to revoke or suspend permits for 76 shops in the EZ Lube quick lube chain, alleging that the company systematically bilked customers into paying for unneeded maintenance work.

The Bureau of Automotive Repair of the states Department of Consumer Affairs called the case its largest investigation in years and said its accusations were based on actions documented in 51 undercover stings.

They were charging $19.95 for an oil change. That was their loss leader, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman with the Consumer Affairs Department. What we found, though, was a pattern whereby the shops would advise customers that their vehicles needed additional work that was not needed and which, in some cases, was not performed. It appears that shops actually had a quota to get each ticket up to a certain price.

EZ Lube, which is based in Santa Ana, Calif., called the allegations unfounded.

The Bureau of Automotive Repair said it launched its investigation after receiving complaints from EZ Lube customers. To test the chains practices, the office sent individuals to dozens of shops driving vehicles that had been inspected beforehand and certified as needing nothing more than an oil change.

According to the 176-page complaint, ensuing events often followed a similar pattern. A shop employee would give the customer an estimate for the oil change and escort them to a waiting room. A short time later the customer would be called to the shop and told that the vehicle also needed various other types of work – such as replacement of the fuel filter to fuel filter servicing, power steering fluid replacement and servicing of the transmission.

The bureau said these additional tasks were in fact not needed and that employees often cited false manufacturer maintenance recommendations to support their advice. Prices for many of the tickets rose from $50 or less to a few hundred dollars. The bureau said subsequent inspections of the vehicles showed the shops did not perform some of the tasks for which they charged.

EZ Lube officials did not respond to a request for comment, but the company posted a statement on its website denying the allegations.

You may have seen recent news reports that the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has charged EZ Lube with violations of the Automotive Repair Act, it said. We are writing to assure you that the BARs accusations are wrong and that our commitment to our customers is unwavering. The statement did not address the bureaus specific allegations.

The bureaus complaint charges EZ Lube with 640 violations of the states Automotive Repair Act, including charging for parts and services that were not needed, false or misleading statements and departure from accepted trade standards.

The case is being prosecuted by the California attorney generals office before the Consumer Affairs Department. EZ Lube has the

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