BELLEVILLE, Ill.—Sears, Roebuck & Co. is facing a lawsuit for allegedly charging customers upwards of $400 million for tire-truing services that were never performed. Filed in Madison County Circuit Court in Illinois, this action is similar to a federal class action lawsuit filed against Sears in Tampa, Fla., in 1991. That case had been dismissed on procedural grounds, but was reinstated late last year.
A Sears spokesman said the company is shocked that the Illinois filing is a ``word-for-word copy of the Florida suit.'' Sears has filed a motion in Florida and expects that case to be dismissed.
``We plan to vigorously defend ourselves against this copycat lawsuit,'' he said.
Steven Katz, the attorney who filed the Illinois suit, is representing a 75-year-old Illinois woman who paid for Sears ``Accubalance'' service in 1991, but may or may not have actually received the service.
As part of the Accubalance service, a thin layer of rubber was shaved off newly-installed tires to correct ``out of round'' problems.
Accubalance was performed at Sears locations nationwide on 1,300 tire truing machines leased from Florida-based Assix International. Sears also paid Assix a fee for each tire serviced.
Both actions allege Sears charged up to 30 million customers for unperformed service between 1989 and 1994.
``It was the perfect crime,'' said Mr. Katz. ``Once you started to drive away, there were no residual marks to tell if the service was performed.''
Mr. Katz said the standard fee was $12.50 per tire, but ran as high as $20. Sears discontinued the Accubalance service in 1994 and destroyed the machines.