Georgia Auto Warranties
Georgia is one state that has taken a very proactive stance against consumer scams, and for buyers of automotive service contracts (erroneously referred to at times as extended warranties) this means multiple kinds of protection. In addition to the Motor Vehicle Warranty Rights legislation, the state’s general business practice laws and other consumer protections combine to make Georgia very inhospitable to ripoff artists of any kind.
In addition to agencies overseen by the state’s Attorney General (AG), the Governor has an Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) that works to protect Georgia consumers and the state’s legitimate businesses in various ways. The OCA investigates all kinds of consumer complaints, and the reports filed with the agency can lead to investigations about a firm’s business methods and practices. When a large number of complaints are lodged against a particular business, the OCA may take legal action to enforce appropriate state laws (not to represent the complainants directly, however).
The Georgia lemon law is just one consumer protection concerning auto purchases, and the OCA helps consumers through the law’s self-service complaint procedure. It does so by acting as a clearinghouse of information, as well as by administering arbitration in cases where consumers allege their autos have not been properly repaired by manufacturers. The agency does not represent individuals, but it does file civil suits for the State of Georgia according to the Fair Businesses Practices Act (FBPA) and other statutes. These actions will often result in tremendous benefits for the citizens of the state.
The OCA will try to get businesses to reimburse consumers for losses as well as reach binding settlements to ensure firms act responsibly in the future. The OCA has the authority to issue fines against violators of consumer protection statutes, even enforcing enhanced penalties in cases where seniors or the disabled were victimized. In addition, the agency can issue cease-and-desist orders to prevent companies from continuing their fraudulent practices. Overall, the OCA is quite proactive and firm in its treatment of individuals and firms that violate its consumer protection laws.
Major Consumer Issues
Clearly, filing criminal charges against individuals and companies that perpetrate frauds through identity theft, bogus home repairs, spurious telemarketing or Internet scams is an important part of the job for state law enforcement. Interestingly, the FTC received almost 12,000 fraud complaints from Georgia consumers in 2006, and an additional 8,000+ identity theft complaints that ranked it 7th in the U.S. in identity theft complaints per 100,000 population. However, the top five fraud complaints made to federal authorities were (1) prizes/sweepstakes and lotteries, (2) Internet and computer complaints, (3) shop-at-home and catalog sales, (4) Internet auctions and (5) offers of foreign money. Extended warranty scams did not make the short list.
In fact, for in-state complaints logged by Georgia officials, auto warranty or service contract scams did not make the top 20 list of ripoffs. This does not mean there are no problems, but it does show that Georgia has managed to reduce the instances to a very low number. The AG and other officials believe that this is a result of its ongoing educational efforts, which the OCA considers a most vital part of its mission. The best consumer protection, the agency believes, is widespread, ever-growing consumer awareness of their rights, as well as being apprised of the leading scams out in the marketplace.
The Georgia FBPA is quite comprehensive and also contains specific provisions relating to promotional contests and giveaways, health club offers, telemarketing practices, Internet fraud, credit report scams, going-out-of-business sales, odometer tampering, vacation prize offers, false warranty claims and many other specific situations. Sometimes a number of these factors are combined in a single scam, as when sellers of service contracts use credit report results or Web-based marketing to manipulate the reactions of the prospective buyers.
The price of liberty, it has been said, is eternal vigilance. This is also the price we must pay for a law-abiding society. Consumers in Georgia are fortunate to have a proactive state government that not only wants to protect, but to educate and empower them. For reputable service contract companies, this is good news and deserves their wholehearted support. No legitimate firm has anything to fear from either educated consumers or proactive lawmakers. In fact, as you shop for your own service contract, you will get a good feel for which companies are solid and honest, and which are less so.
A reputable firm will gladly give you the service contract to take home and read, and will support your efforts to learn about the coverage and cost. If you run into any brick walls when shopping around, just leave that firm behind and continue your quest. There are plenty of honest ones to find.