Law Office of Lowell Steiger

Warning: Predatory Service Practices at Local BMW Dealer

Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: May 21, 2008

I received this letter today and wanted to forewarn others to beware when they bring their car in for service under “warranty.” Whether you’re bringing your BMW, Hyundai, Chevy or Bentley in for warranty service, know your rights. I, for one, was outraged by this story.

Dear Mr. Steiger:

Today I brought my 2007 BMW 650i into Pacific BMW Service for a check engine light. The car only has 7,000 miles. Not only is it under warranty, but BMW offers a free complete maintenance plan.

The check engine light, once illuminated cannot be turned off by the customer, necessitating a service visit. I therefore brought my car into Pacific BMW. After an hour or so, I was told they could not discover what precisely triggered the check engine light to illuminate. The service advisor explained to me that their equipment is not precise enough to pinpoint the exact cause, however they deduced it might be due to a gas cap being loose after refueling. I told them I always tighten the gas cap enough to hear a confirming “click” which indicates proper tightness. My service advisor added that sometimes you have to tighten beyond the first click, sometimes 2-3 clicks more. That suggestion is directly contrary to instructions on the gas cap which reads, “do not overtighten.” Moreoever, the gas cap simply does not allow for more than one-click.

Pacific BMW decided the check engine light came on because I must have left the gas cap loose. Yet they also acknowledge that when I brought the car in, the gas cap was on tight. Because they don’t know why the check engine light illuminated, Pacific BMW refused to honor the warranty and maintenance plan and charged me $145. When I protested the charge citing the car was under warranty, my service advisor said it was my fault the light came on and they would not honor the warranty. Moreover, if I didn’t pay the $145, they would not release the car. I spoke to a customer relations person as no service manager was available. She reiterated they would not honor the warranty and reiterated they would not release the car until the balance was paid.

While Pacific BMW couldn’t not be sure what caused the light to come on, they did not hesitate to blame me. I know for a fact, I did nothing wrong. I wonder how many other BMW owners are duped whenever they bring in their car for a problem, believing it is under warranty. It seems at any given time, Pacific BMW can blame the owner as a means of extorting a somewhat small amount of money. However, that small amount in aggregrate is not an insignificant number.

Pacific BMW’s predatory practice of unjustifiably charging customers for work that should be under warranty is unconscionable! This practice makes a complete joke out of a manufacturer’s warranty and is not how other BMW dealers handle similar situations.

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