Posted on Dec 13, 2004
CONSUMER WATCH: Couple gets some relief in warranty case
POINT OF VIEW
Sunday, December 12, 2004
In January 2003, I wrote about Jerry and Angie Barnes' extended warranty ordeal with Haynes Jeep Chrysler on West Broad Street. The couple had purchased a used Jeep Grand Cherokee from Haynes and then paid $1,247.45 for a five-year extended warranty. They wound up saddled with about $4,000 worth of repairs on the Jeep, which should have been covered by the warranty, they said. To their surprise, the five-year contract expired in only two years. A five-year contract should last for five years, they said. When they asked that the warranty be reinstated for the remainder of the five years, Haynes balked and refused to reinstate it, or to reimburse them for repairs. The manager said the warranty expired five years from when the car was delivered to the original owner, not - as the Barneses understood it - five years after the vehicle's limited warranty expired. The two sides eventually deadlocked and Haynes stopped returning their calls and mine. So, the Barneses took their case to John Cole Gayle Jr. of The Consumer Law Group PC in Richmond. This week, Angie Barnes confirmed that Haynes Jeep Chrysler settled with them out of court for $8,000.
Haynes Jeep Chrysler had no comment for this article.
"I guess it's like David beating Goliath," said Angie Barnes. "I feel like we were able to stop Goliath a little bit and get some concessions where normally people would not have gotten any. I've got this feeling of satisfaction." Haynes Jeep also did not get the "gag order" that it sought, she said - another victory, of sorts. A gag order would have kept the details of the settlement private.
It was not a full victory, though.
"We never got our warranty rein stated and we're stuck with a car that has so many problems," said Barnes. "We can't afford to buy another car. That's why we had to hang on to it. We'd have to put so much into it to get anything on a trade-in.
Also, the Barneses had to split the settlement down the middle with the lawyer. "I guess I'm glad we at least got almost $4,000 to go toward what needs to be done," she said. "But, we're still out $4,000" for repairs already paid for.
Having gone through the ordeal, Barnes has this advice for consumers:
Have a lawyer review the warranty contract.
Be sure the warranty begins when you think it begins.
Don't buy a warranty until after you've read the contract. The Barneses signed the sales agreement, but said the contract was not mailed to them until about a month later.
Gayle, the lawyer, said the Barneses' persistence paid off. "The message is, if you're persistent and make complaints and force merchants such as car dealers to live up to their promises, even if it involves litigation, often you will get some - but, not necessarily all - of what you want in settlement."
He advises consumers who may be considering purchasing an extended vehicle warranty to, "as difficult as it is, read the extended warranty's language" and don't simply rely on discussions with the dealer's employees.