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Post date: August 12 2003

Western New York Oil Change Service Sued For Deceptive Practices

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a lawsuit against a Western New York auto service center for deceptive business practices and falsely advertising the price of its service.

Mr. Oil Change, Inc. and its owner, James L. Busshart, were served with a lawsuit alleging that the oil change shops have been misrepresenting to thousands of customers the type of oil being used and charging them fees that were not adequately disclosed.

"Whether it is investment banks, large corporations or local auto repair shops - consumers have the right to receive truthful representations about the product or service they are purchasing," Spitzer said.

According to the lawsuit, between September 2002 and April 2003, Mr. Oil Change falsely represented to consumers that it exclusively used Castrol bulk oil for its oil changes when, in fact, it was using a significantly less expensive brand.

Consumers were duped into believing they were paying for Castrol oil by signs posted in the shops, the use of oil containers on work sites that were labeled as "Castrol oil", the price board that featured exclusively the Castrol name, and through reminder cards and coupons that carried the "Castrol" logo.

For the approximately 30,000 oil changes performed during the eight months that it is alleged to have misrepresented its product, Mr. Oil Change realized a substantial windfall - easily more than $76,000 - all at the expense of unknowing customers.

The lawsuit also alleges that Mr. Oil Change falsely advertised the price of its services. Although its advertisements and coupons offered oil changes at $27.99, it failed to adequately disclose that an additional fee - deceptively named an "environmental" fee and later, in March 2003, calling it a "storage and disposal" fee - would be charged. Mr. Oil Change kept the proceeds of this fee and never used it to offset any specific regulatory or environmental cost.

Spitzer’s office is seeking a restraining order barring the firm from any further deceptive representations that Mr. Oil Change uses Castrol oil products. The lawsuit also seeks a court order barring the company from engaging in any further fraudulent and deceptive acts, restitution for injured consumers, civil penalties for its violations of the law and costs for the state’s investigation.

Individuals wishing to file a complaint against Mr. Oil Change are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office.