EXPLAINED: Filing a Complaint Against USAA with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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Prolific Contributor

I'm sharing my experience with USAA's stubborn refusal to honor a chargeback I filed against a mechanic who charged more for labor than agreed upon (in a recorded conversation), illegally sold me an engine with a scratched out VIN, and then didn't perform all services as promised. I decided to go to www.cfpb.gov and file a complaint since USAA clearly failed to complete even the most basic due dilligence before deciding "no error occurred" and there was "no billing error."

 

Going through the CFPB process was smooth, hassle-free and should be resolved within 15 days. The CFPB is a government organization with teeth. In January 2019 I believe the CFPB fined USAA $3 million and ordered USAA to pay ~$13 million in restitution to members they failed to properly serve (including failing to correct errors).

 

Report Submitted to CFPB:

This case is about a transaction that occurred on July 26, 2019, for parts and services from an automobile repair shop. The company sold an engine significantly not as described (in fact, it was illegal to sell the engine) and failed to properly perform services paid for using a USAA debit card. I disputed the transaction with USAA, which "determined a billing error did not occur" as "the correct amount was charged.

 

On numerous occasions I called and provided information in support of my position to no avail. USAA is notorious for siding with merchants on its "Community forum" website and failing to defend its members. I explicitly pointed out this was not a Visa "Chargeback Reason Code 12.5: Processing Error" issue; instead, the applicable reasons were one or more of the following: 13.1  - Merchandise/Services Not Received, 13.3 - Not as Described or Defective Merchandise/Services, 13.5 - Misrepresentation.

 

USAA reversed the temporary credit of $2,523.90 bringing our account balance to less than $0.00. As you review my account of events, please keep in mind the *only* documentation provided by the mechanic is a single receipt signed by me on the date I picked up the vehicle. This is before what I now know about the goods and services purchased.

 

I shared, on multiple occasions, every detail in the "Account of Events" below. USAA claimed the case was closed and, based on their conclusion at the end of their "investigation," none of the information provided was read or considered.

 

ACCOUNT OF EVENTS:

On Monday, July 22, 2019, I paid for my car, a 2006 Toyota Prius, to be towed to Ozzi's Automotive due to issues with the engine. TechStream, sophisticated software used to diagnose car problems with Toyota manufactured vehicles, showed three error codes/issues with the vehicle when dropped off.

 

Prior to doing so, however, I spoke with the owner of the shop and we agreed it would take 12-15 hours labor to swap the current engine out for another one. This conversation was recorded and the relevant section of the transcript is as follows:

 

ME: Is it about 10 hours labor to take the engine out and put a new one back in? Or..

 

MINOZZI: You're looking probably like 15 or so, it's a pretty big deal, you know. You do other stuff while you have the engine out... [unintelligible] If you're gonna do something that big, you want to do it right...

 

ME: What's the rate on labor?  

 

MINOZZI: Labor is $95 an hour.

 

ME: So, $1,500?

 

MINOZZI: Yeah, you're probably $1,500 just in labor...

 

ME: Yeah...

 

MINOZZI: Plus engine, whatever that would cost...

 

ME: Right.

 

MINOZZI: You know, I'm thinking probably... You're probably looking at about two grand so you're at about $3,500.

 

Note: Georgia law permits recording of conversations without consent of all parties, provided at least one (1) person is aware of such recording is taking place (“single consent”).

 

FIRST ISSUE:

Mr. Minozzi, even after hearing the recording of our conversation, claims he never agreed to 15 hours labor. Instead, he misrepresented 25 hours as "exactly what was estimated." This is shown on the detailed invoice he supplied (Note: I declined to sign this document for him).

 

I believe he found the replacement engine at a lower cost than he expected and inflated the hours to get closer to the $3,500 range we discussed. This is inappropriate as he provided an estimate, as stated on the documentation, not a firm quote. Inflating hours, at a rate of $95/hr, is unjustified and goes against our agreement. Importantly, there was no written agreement subsequent to our oral contract. [$950 overcharge]

 

SECOND ISSUE:

On or about July 19, 2019, we had further discussions about the condition/mileage of a replacement engine in which I might have an interest. We agreed on an engine with roughly 72,000 miles on it at a cost around $1,300. I knew this was roughly the current market value of a Prius engine of this mileage based on fairly extensive research.

 

I learned after July 26, at 1:05 PM, the time at which I signed the receipt, Mr. Minozzi installed an engine with allegedly 83,000 miles (more than agreed), but more importantly, the engine VIN was scratched off. When I explained the seriousness of this issue he replied via email, " It is the company I purchased the engine from policy to remove the VIN number from the engine not mine."

 

According to O.G.C.A. § 40-2-21 regarding Removal or Falsification of Vehicle Identification, “A person who willfully and with intent to misrepresent the identity of a vehicle or engine, removes or falsifies an identification number of a vehicle with intent to convert or defraud is guilty of a felony.”

 

Mr. Minozzi, after repeated requests for the VIN of the totaled automobile from which the engine was removed, provided one with absolutely no history whatsoever. Not of the vehicle being sold, registered to anyone, ever passed a smog/emissions test, or in an accident. This only fueled my concerns he placed a stolen engine into my vehicle.

 

At this juncture the engine could have 72,000, 172,000 or 272,000 miles on it. Perhaps, my engine was NEVER replaced, he simply fixed it, scratched off the VIN and charged me for an engine. With the VIN scratched off he cannot prove he sold and installed an engine with 72,000 miles. The only thing we can prove is, based on his emailed confession, his violation of O.G.C.A. § 40-2-21 regarding Removal or Falsification of Vehicle Identification Number.

 

I believe at this juncture it's safe to conclude the requested chargeback should be honored on the grounds, at a minimum, the merchandise was not as described and/or misrepresentation on the part of Mr. Minozzi.

 

THIRD ISSUE:

Adding insult to injury, the installed engine is not working properly even after towing it to the shop once for repairs. The TechStream error codes increased from three when towed to the shop to 13 immediately after driving the vehicle home after the engine replacement. As mentioned, this is a very sophisticated diagnostic tool and I'm providing this information (along with screenshots of the analysis) rather than descriptions of how the engine stutters, accelerates more slowly, etc. as it is measurable and quantifiable.

 

I shared this information with USAA in the same level of detail simply requesting approval of the chargeback. USAA is, in my opinion, wrongfully abdicating its responsibility to properly monitor and act upon chargebacks in the hope customers (or soon to be former customers) left it go,

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I'll share more as the case progresses and I learn more.