DENVER – Colorado Attorney General John Suthers today announced that settlements have been reached with Dallas-based American Engine Installations and its Colorado franchises in Commerce City (located at 4850 Olive Street) and Colorado Springs (3455 Astrozon Court). The Attorney General filed a Consumer Protection Act lawsuit against AEI in June of last year, alleging that AEI and its franchises low-balled engine repair estimates, only to raise the estimate an average of 60 percent after consumers had paid an $800 deposit and after their cars were dismantled.
The Attorney General’s Office received more than 60 complaints about American Engine over the past four years. The State alleged that consumers ended up paying, on average, $1500 more than the original estimate. The original complaint also alleged that AEI misled consumers 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 Consent Judgments, which were entered as orders of the court in Adams County, require AEI to pay $300,000 in restitution and penalties to the State, which will be distributed to approximately 90 harmed consumers. In addition, AEI and its president, John K. Hartnack, are permanently enjoined from further operation of any engine repair business that affects Colorado consumers.
The Consent Judgment against Timothy and Charles Gemelli, the brothers who owned and operated the Colorado AEI franchises, includes a suspended $100,000 penalty. The suspended penalty will be imposed in the event that the Gemellis, who declared bankruptcy in federal court, have lied about their financial condition, or if they engage in any future improper sales practices. The Consent Judgment also permanently enjoins the Gemellis from, among other things, giving estimates over the phone for motor vehicle repairs or charging consumers for additional repairs that should have been known at the time of the estimate.
The Attorney General’s Complaint also alleged AEI misrepresented its use of Automotive Service Excellence-certified mechanics and Better Business Bureau membership. The Attorney General’s investigation determined that many of AEI’s mechanics were not certified by ASE as advertised, and that AEI and Mr. Hartnack were aware of this fact. Although AEI advertised Better Business Bureau membership at one time, the Commerce City shop was not a BBB member and was not in good standing as a result of consumer complaints concerning repair quality and costs.