St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 10, 2013
– Consumers say a St. Charles, Mo., company used misleading mailings to persuade them to buy vehicle service contracts and then refused their repeated efforts to cancel the agreements and obtain refunds, Better Business Bureau
BBB urges car owners to use caution when solicited by representatives of Autoplex Extended Services
, 2410 Highway 94 South Outer Road. The company also has used the name Department of Motor Vehicle Services
“It was a horrible experience,” said a consumer from Houston, Tex., who told BBB she tried to cancel her contract less than an hour after giving the company a $150 deposit in October. She said she tried several times to cancel the agreement but was rebuffed each time. When she threatened to contact a lawyer, she said the salesperson told her, “Come on, you have a six-year-old car; you don’t have a lawyer.”Keith Horneker
is listed as owner of Autoplex Extended Services, according to the company’s registration documents with the Missouri secretary of state. The records show that Autoplex first registered in December 2009.
BBB has logged more than 100 complaints and reports involving Autoplex in the last three years, most of them in the last year. The firm has failed to respond to 18 complaints. Autoplex has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said customer complaints show a pattern of problems with Autoplex. “Consumers who are simply trying to cancel their service agreements say they are being subjected to ridicule and abuse from Autoplex representatives,” she said. “This type of behavior should not be tolerated.”
Many consumers said they felt tricked by misleading mailings into contacting company sales representatives. Several of the company’s mailings obtained by BBB do not mention Autoplex, but instead refer to the sending company as Department of Motor Vehicle Services. Consumers said that led them to believe that the mailing had come from a government agency or their vehicles’ manufacturer.
“I was fooled,” said a consumer from San Antonio, Texas, who said he believed the mailing was from Ford, not an independent marketer. When he learned later that day that he had made a credit card payment to Autoplex, he called the company to try to get a refund. “They told me it was my problem.”
A consumer from Charleston, S.C., who said she thought a solicitation letter was from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, said she, too, had been thwarted in several attempts to cancel her contract.
Horneker told BBB that Autoplex works with several direct mail companies. “We do not approve the mailings,” he said.
He also said that Autoplex had been diligent about responding to BBB complaints, but stopped because it had become a “waste of time. It’s not going to change anything,” he said. He said he believes the “F” rating is “not going to get better; it’s not going to get worse.”
He described Autoplex as a “very busy company with a very big volume” and said only a “very very small ratio” of Autoplex customers file complaints with BBB.
Horneker disputed complaints from consumers who said they had difficulty canceling contracts. He said consumers simply need to follow the written policy on their contracts. As for allegations of rude behavior, he said, “If we are not telling them the answer they want to hear, all of a sudden we’re being rude.”
An Autoplex customer from Pullman, Wash., told BBB that he paid the company nearly $2,600 for repair coverage in September, but called to cancel the contract two months later. He said he pointed out the cancellation clause in the contract to a company representative, but described the company as “very uncooperative.” He said the representative told him he could cancel only if the vehicle was repossessed, stolen, sold or destroyed in an accident. He said he repeatedly asked to speak with a manager, but was refused.
A woman from Nokomis, Fla., said she felt tricked into purchasing a service agreement last month, believing the mailing had come from the state’s motor vehicle department. She said she called the next day to cancel and asked for a refund of her $395 deposit, but a company representative said he could not help her. “They made me feel stupid,” she said. “I got so frustrated, I finally hung up.”
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 www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300. If there is a separate service administrator or finance company, research that business, too.
- 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.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), email@example.com