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Bridgestone settles Calif. fraud case

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RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. (July 5, 2016) — California’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and Bridgestone Americas have agreed to a settlement covering fraud charges brought by the department’s Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) against 22 Firestone Complete Auto Care centers in California.

The charges concerned billing customers for parts the BAR claimed were not replaced and services that were not rendered over a two-year period, starting in 2013. The state agency conducted an undercover investigation of the Firestone stores during that time.

Bridgestone Americas Retail Operations, which is responsible for the stores, said in a prepared statement that it launched an “extensive internal investigation” after the DCA brought its investigation to Bridgestone’s attention, and that “appropriate corrective actions and refined operational processes” were implemented, including additional training for employees.

 

Firestone, Bridgstone, California, bureau automotive repair
Bridgestone Retail Operations photo A typical Firestone Complete Auto Care store.

Bridgestone Americas declined to say whether any personnel were dismissed as a result of the investigation or settlement, but stressed: “We in no way condone these behaviors or actions. They are counter to our values as a company and as members of the community.”

Bridgestone Americas was first notified of the BAR’s investigation in late 2015. The parties agreed to settle the case in May 2016, with Bridgestone agreeing to pay the BAR $83,000 to cover the costs of the investigation and enforcement.

No other fines or penalties were issued.

The BAR’s investigation consisted primarily of having employees take various BAR vehicles to the Firestone stores for service. Afterward the bureau re-examined the vehicles to determine whether the services charged for had actually been carried out.

A large number of the BAR’s complaints centered on service done on its vehicles’ tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) components. The BAR was invoiced on several occasions for a TPMS replacement kit — O-rings, etc. — but the bureau determined the new parts had not been installed.

The BAR did single out one outlet, in Hayward, Calif., for multiple violations. That outlet’s permission to operate as an automotive repair business and smog station was suspended for five days and the store is on probation for three years, the state said.

The other 21 facilities named in the BAR’s action are on probation for two years and must file a report quarterly with the BAR on the “methods used and success achieved in maintaining compliance with the terms and conditions of probation.”

Should any of the outlets fail to comply with the terms and conditions, the BAR said it may “temporarily or permanently invalidate the registration and/or suspend or revoke the license” to operate.

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