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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 02, 2005
Firestone Tire Centers Ordered to Reimburse Customers for Road Hazard Warranties


SEATTLE – Consumers who purchased additional tire warranties within the past two years from a Firestone Tire & Service Center in Washington may be eligible for a refund. Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced a settlement with Firestone Tire & Service Centers, resolving allegations that the company sold road hazard warranties with its tires without informing consumers that the warranties were optional.

The agreement was filed today in King County Superior Court. It requires BFS Retail and Commercial Operations, which owns and operates Firestone Tire & Service Centers, to reimburse customers who request a refund for certain warranties purchased between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 1, 2005.

The company must also pay the state $10,000 in civil penalties, of which $5,000 is suspended contingent on compliance with the agreement, and $20,000 in costs and attorneys fees.

“The Attorney General’s Office alleges that Firestone Tire & Service Centers failed to inform shoppers that its road hazard warranty and tire replacement certificate were optional, and charged customers for the cost of the products without their explicit consent,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “Businesses have an ethical and legal obligation to adequately disclose details about optional services and products that appear on estimates or invoices. It also is unfair to represent something as ‘free’ unless no costs are associated.”

According to the state’s complaint, the company automatically included the cost of the warranty or certificate in its tire estimates and only disclosed that the services were optional when consumers expressly inquired about them. Consumers were sold certificates at a cost typically equal to 12 percent of the tire price.

The complaint also alleged that Firestone’s improperly used the word “free” in its Free Replacement Certificate. Firestone charged for the certificate.

State law requires automotive facilities to post signs informing customers of their rights. Firestone failed to display the required signs at six centers in King County, according to the state’s investigation.

Customers who purchased a Road Hazard Warranty, Tire Replacement or Repair Certificate, or Free Replacement Certificate between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 1, 2005, and desire a refund should submit a written request within the next 90 days. Refund requests can be submitted to any Firestone Tire & Service Center in Washington, the Attorney General’s Office or a local Better Business Bureau. Customers who receive refunds will no longer be entitled to the guarantees and services outlined in the agreements.

Mileage warranties on Firestone tires are not affected by this settlement.

The settlement does not include an admission or finding of wrongdoing.

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Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432, kalexander@atg.wa.gov
Shannon Smith, Assistant Attorney General, (206) 389-3996, shannons@atg.wa.gov

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