BBB NEWS RELEASE
BBB Receives More than 1,200 Complaints and Reports
Against Extended Auto Warranty Company
and NASCAR Sponsor US Fidelis
Consumers in all 50 states report company used misleading tactics to sell vehicle service contract of dubious value
April 27, 2009 – Memphis, TN – Consumers across the United States are alleging that Wentzville, MO-based US Fidelis, a company touting itself as “America’s leading provider of extended auto warranties,” pressured them into buying expensive and unnecessary vehicle service contracts from which they received little or no benefit. The NBC Today Show aired a report on this company and their complaints on April 23, 2009. The story can be accessed through this link: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/30364192#30364192
In the past three years, the BBB in St. Louis, MO has received more than 33,000 inquiries and more than 1,200 complaints and reports from consumers expressing dissatisfaction with US Fidelis or its services. Consumers say that in some cases they spent thousands of dollars for extended warranties and yet still ended up paying thousands more for repairs that were not covered under plans sold by US Fidelis. A number of state attorneys general have also taken complaints from angry consumers alleging the company’s business practices are unethical and misleading.
“The sheer volume and ongoing pattern of the complaints involving US Fidelis are nothing short of astonishing,” said Randy Hutchinson, BBB President. “We continue to get reports from consumers saying they have been pressured or misled into buying warranty contracts they don’t want or don’t need, and many others tell us they’ve been left holding the bag when the claim-processing company refused to pay for costly vehicle repairs.”
US Fidelis calls itself a “faith-based company” with a “commitment to treating every customer with honesty and integrity.” Its logo, topped by a shining halo, can be seen in national television commercials. US Fidelis is also a primary NASCAR sponsor of the No. 66 Chevrolet Impala SS, participating in 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series events and owned by 1989 Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace, owner of Rusty Wallace Racing, LLC (RWR).
The company – previously operating under the names Dealer Services and National Auto Warranty Services – is owned by Darain and Cory Atkinson, two brothers from St. Charles County, west of St. Louis. Chris Riley was recently named the company’s chief executive.
Records show the company, founded in early 2003, sells extended vehicle service contracts across North America. US Fidelis’ TV and Internet commercials ask car owners to call a toll-free phone number for information. The company also has solicited customers by mail and by phone, and BBB notes consumers are especially critical of letters and postcards that appear to be associated with their manufacturers’ warranties. Riley has stated that the company has recently stopped making outbound telemarketing calls.
The nature of complaints against US Fidelis ranges from rude and uncooperative sales representatives to the company’s refusal to provide consumers with copies of coverage contracts before purchase. Some consumers allege contracts were written to make it extremely difficult to obtain payment for repairs. Others said repairs they thought should have been covered were not. The following are examples of US Fidelis’ practices provided to BBB by local customers.
A Memphis woman agreed to a policy and paid her down payments and premiums to US Fidelis. When she needed work done on her car, US Fidelis asked her to send them documentation of an oil change to prove that she used preventive measures. She faxed the proof to them. US Fidelis then claimed that she was in her 60 day grace period so repairs could not be covered. She sent them a copy of her contract stipulating a 30 day grace period but never heard back from them. Upon learning that she had filed a complaint with the BBB, US Fidelis refunded her down payment and premium and refused to deal with her because she had contacted the BBB.
A Memphis man held a policy with the company for three days, but then decided to cancel. US Fidelis refused to refund his money until he filed a complaint with the BBB.
A suit filed by the Missouri Attorney General against National Auto Warranty Services (US Fidelis) is still pending in St. Charles County, MO. In papers filed with the court, the firm denied misrepresenting its products or deceiving customers. The Attorney General claimed the company violated the Missouri No Call Law, failed to inform consumers that it was not affiliated with the dealers or manufacturers of the vehicle and that it was offering to sell motor vehicle extended service contracts instead of warranties.
BBB offers the following advice for dealing with firms offering extended auto warranty contracts:
- Never give personal information, including Social Security, bank or credit card numbers, over the phone to an unknown telemarketer.
- Read your manufacturer’s warranty and contact your dealer or manufacturer to ensure that you are not purchasing duplicate coverage.
- Consumers can place their phone numbers on the Federal Do Not Call List by visiting www.donotcall.gov. If a consumer is already on the list but continues to receive telemarketing calls, he or she can use the same Web site to report incidents to the Federal Trade Commission.
- To find trustworthy auto warranty companies, consumers can check out BBB Reliability Reports online and free of charge at www.bbb.org.