AKRON-Prompted by a television news investigation of alleged fraudulent automotive service, Goodyear has entered into a ``model agreement'' with the Minnesota Attorney General that, according to a company spokeswoman, could be the first step toward national industry standards. In December, Goodyear voluntarily agreed to keep product- and service-specific incentive programs and automotive-parts-maker-sponsored contests for service personnel out of its company-owned stores in Minnesota for five years.
The agreement also calls for the establishment of a $40,000 interest-bearing escrow account at a Minnesota financial institution to promote consumer education.
``We think it is a first step,'' the Goodyear spokeswoman said. ``(We've) been a proponent of (automotive service) industry standards for a long time.''
She said Goodyear had not been offering product-specific or service-specific programs, which provide financial rewards based upon the sales of certain items, at its Minnesota stores ``for a while.''
Tracy Smith, a Minnesota assistant attorney general who worked on the agreement, said Goodyear quit using the programs about one year ago after her office began investigating complaints of overselling prompted by a local TV station's undercover report.
The attorney general's office said it found no evidence of intentional wrongdoing, and Goodyear admitted no wrongdoing by signing the agreement, which also states that the tire maker will:
Enhance its service disclosure forms to more clearly tell each customer which service items are intended to ``diagnose or effect a repair'' and those which are for ``preventive maintenance;''
Expand its quality assurance program to include ``unannounced and random'' spot-checks of service recommendations before repairs have begun as well as store audits to assess compliance with company policies. Each Goodyear store in the state will be audited at least twice a year for two years;
Continue to work in ``good faith in the attorney general's mediation program to resolve consumer complaints'' and pay arbitration costs charged by the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota.
Currently, the agreement applies only to auto service operations at Goodyear-owned stores in Minnesota. It does not apply to the sales of tires, wheels or automotive parts sold outside of a service operation.
The Goodyear spokeswoman said it is too early to determine whether the agreement will prompt others to adopt similar practices. Goodyear has not determined if the policy will be extended outside Minnesota.