Attorney General Suthers Files Consumer Protection Lawsuit To Stop Alleged Auto Repair Scam

DENVER – The office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today filed suit against a nationwide engine repair company and its local franchise located in Commerce City. The complaint alleges that Dallas, Texas-based American Engine Installation (http://www.engineinstallation.com/) consistently charged in excess of the estimates it provided to consumers. All told, the Attorney General’s Office received more than 60 complaints about American Engine over the past four years.

“For many Coloradans, taking the family car to a mechanic can be a frustrating experience,” commented Attorney General Suthers. “Consumers often lack the technical knowledge to make informed decisions, and are left vulnerable to unscrupulous auto shops. Some cases require law enforcement investigations. This is one of them.”

As alleged in the complaint, the Attorney General’s investigation found AEI’s average repair cost to be more than 60 percent higher than pre-repair estimates. On average, the disparity between the estimate and actual cost exceeded $1,500. In many cases, consumers learned of the additional charges only after paying a non-refundable deposit of at least $800 and only after the engine had been removed from their car.

The complaint also alleges AEI provided exaggerated quotes as to the length of time it would take to complete the work. Repairs often left consumers without a vehicle far longer than the 5-10 business days quoted by the company. In one case, a vehicle remained in AEI’s shop for more than eight months.

The lawsuit further maintains that AEI routinely claimed to employ mechanics certified by Automotive Service Excellence, a certifying body that provides consumers with an assurance of quality repair. The Attorney General’s investigation determined that only one of more than twenty local AEI mechanics was ASE certified in engine repair.

Although AEI advertised Better Business Bureau membership, the Commerce City shop (located at 4850 Olive Street) was not a BBB member and was not in good standing as a result of numerous consumer complaints concerning repair quality and costs. American Engine operates a second franchise based in Colorado Springs (3455 Astrozon Court), which was formerly under the same ownership as the Commerce City shop. The Colorado Springs franchise is accused of deceptive practices only under the previous owners.

The lawsuit names nationwide AEI president John Hartnack, as well as Charles and Timothy Gemelli, local owners of the Commerce City franchise and past owners/operators of the Colorado Springs franchise. The State is seeking an injunction to stop deceptive practices, monetary restitution for injured consumers, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees. The case was filed this morning in Adams County District Court.

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