Eight Southern California Firestone locations are among more than 20 in the state that were cited in a complaint accusing the Tennessee-based auto repair chain of fraud, making misleading statements and other violations.
The Bureau of Automotive Repair in the California Department of Consumer Affairs filed a 64-page accusation against the company.
Beginning in 2013, undercover agents with the bureau took vehicles into the locations listed in the complaint for various basic services such as tire replacement and smog checks.
One shop, in Hayward, had a long list of alleged violations. The shop turned a routine oil change into a recommendation for $856 worth of unnecessary services, according to the complaint. Another vehicle that needed its front brake pads replaced got a repair estimate of $2,780 for a long list of services that were not needed, the bureau said.
At most of the shops, the undercover agents were billed for services that were not provided, such as the installation and replacement of tire pressure monitoring system kits as part of a tire change. The new kits were not installed but the customer was billed from around $6 to $11, according to the complaint.
"It really seems like there's a systemic problem with the way that Bridgestone/Firestone oversees its franchisees and its mechanics. It doesn't seem like there's any standards in place," said Jaime Court, president of a nonprofit Santa Monica-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which was not involved in the case.
"For a company that's known for tires to not properly install tire-pressure valves, to overcharge for equipment that is about the tire, really suggests that the playbook for the company is one that says do it quick, do it for as much as you can charge, and don't worry about the customer," Court said.
The complaint, which lists 101 causes for discipline, requests the revocation or suspension of the locations' automotive dealer repair licenses.
The Southern California locations named in the complaint are :
- 9690 Reagan Road, San Diego
- 1434 E. Foothill Blvd, Upland
- 4199 Market St., Riverside
- 1410 Highland Ave., Hollywood
- 10785 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles
- 271 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino
- 4161 Convoy St., San Diego
- 1500 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
The complaint was dated Dec. 7, 2015.
Bridgestone, the Tokyo-based company that owns the Firestone brand, provided a statement to KGO, a television station in San Francisco that first reported on the investigation on Monday. It said the company owns and operates more than 2,200 service centers nationwide.
"Bridgestone was notified by the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs ("BAR") as to certain deficiencies found to exist at some of our Firestone Complete Auto Care locations. In response, Bridgestone immediately launched an extensive internal investigation and shared our findings with BAR,” the statement read, in part. “Bridgestone subsequently implemented appropriate corrective actions and refined operational processes, including additional training for our employees, in an effort to continuously improve the level of service we provide to our customers in California and nationwide."
A settlement was reached between the state and the company, but details have not been made public, KGO reported.