Five years after Sharon Halverson bought a 2012 Kia Sorento, she received an official-looking letter that said the warranty on it had expired. So she ponied up $3,433 for what she thought was a full warranty.
Halverson, a retiree in Blaine, didn’t realize the offer wasn’t from the dealer nor that her car’s warranty was still good.
She’s not the only Minnesotan who thinks she was duped. On Friday, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against AutoAssure LLC alleging the company sold costly and often unnecessary car warranties to nearly 1,000 Minnesotans.
AutoAssure’s letters, which appeared to come from a company affiliated with the car’s manufacturer, also falsely appeared to offer comprehensive coverage, Swanson said.
“These contracts are expensive and may contain dozens of exclusions for everything from mechanical problems resulting from normal operation of the car to a list of noncovered parts,” she said.
The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County and seeks injunctive and monetary relief.
Rick Burton, general counsel for Plano, Texas-based AutoAssure, said that the company was not aware of the lawsuit and had not seen it. He said the company has been in regular discussions with Swanson’s office for the past four years over “very minor” issues.
“It was our understanding all questions about our company had been satisfactorily resolved,” he said. “AutoAssure has been in business for nearly 10 years and looks forward to vigorously contesting any claim asserted by the Minnesota attorney general.”
Benjamin Wogsland, a spokesman for Swanson, said the Attorney General’s Office has been “wrangling” with the company for some time. In 2016, the office went to court to force AutoAssure to turn over call recordings and solicitation materials. A court also required the company to produce this information, Wogsland said, but it still refused to do so. “It has stonewalled our investigation,” he said.
In 2017, the office took the company to court a second time to again force it to turn over call recordings, which included a “smattering” that “are very troubling and document the deception,” he said.
The new lawsuit again asks the court to force AutoAssure to turn over the call recordings that it has withheld for the last two years.
The suit also says that Halverson and others received mailings sent from a “vehicle services department.” Recipients were told the manufacturer’s warranty was about to expire and call AutoAssure to “update” their repair coverage with contracts that cost on $3,200 on average.
The so-called policies included a staggering number of exclusions. “It was supposed to cover everything,” Halvorson said.
In some cases, the letters claimed the existing manufacturer’s warranty was being extended, or that a service contract was being reactivated, according to Swanson’s office.
Halverson’s car was still covered by its basic warranty for another five months and by its powertrain warranty for many more years.
In another case, a 59-year-old woman from Cambridge, Minn., said she received a letter she thought was from Ford. AutoAssure sold her a contract for $3,791 even though she still had 18 months left on an existing service contract.
In some cases, recipients thought the contract they were buying covered “everything,” but in reality some policies contained more than 40 paragraphs of exclusions. Halverson said that she’s yet to receive a penny.
“They said, ‘Send in the info and let us see,’ ” Halverson said. “So I sent it in and so far haven’t received any compensation.”