Pep Boys To Refund Inspection Fee Overcharges

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a national auto retail and service chain to refund overcharges for motor vehicle inspections.

Pep Boys, which operates over 660 automotive stores across the nation, including 33 in New York State, entered into an agreement with Spitzer's office settling allegations that it was improperly charging a $25 fee for unnecessary emissions inspections on certain vehicles. The company also was improperly imposing sales tax on the inspection fees.

"Inspections to test a vehicle's safety and emissions are extremely important and should be encouraged in every way possible," Spitzer said. "But the process is undermined when consumers are forced to pay for unnecessary inspections."

State regulations call for annual emissions tests on vehicles more than two models years old as part of the official safety inspection. These regulations limit fees for such services to $10 for a safety inspection and $25 for an emissions test.

After being notified by the Attorney General's office in October 1999 that the additional $25 emissions charge was being imposed improperly because new vehicles are not subject to the requirement, the Philadelphia-based company continued to do so for at least an additional two months.

In settling the case, the company -- officially known as Pep Boys - Manny Moe & Jack of Delaware, Inc. - has agreed to discontinue illegally charging fees for unnecessary emissions inspections, to stop taxing state mandated vehicle inspections and to maintain proper records of inspections and re-inspections as required by law.

As part of the settlement Pep Boys will issue $25 refunds to any customers identified as being overcharged and publish advertisements in five major newspapers across the state for seven days alerting the public of the potential emissions overcharge, giving additional consumers a chance to register complaints.

It is estimated that as many as 1,200 consumers across the state were overcharged for their vehicle inspection and are due a refund.

Without admitting any violation of law, Pep Boys has agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties and costs.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Merrill Scannell of the Nassau Regional Office, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In Charge Suzan Flamm.

Individuals who believe they were overcharged for their state-mandated vehicle inspection by Pep Boys are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 or write to the Attorney General's Nassau Regional Office at 200 Old Country Road - Suite 240, Mineola, New York 11501-2818.

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