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CONSUMER AFFAIRS, WINSTON TIRE REACH SETTLEMENT IN BUREAU OF AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR INVESTIGATION

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and Winston Tire Co. announced today that they have reached a settlement in an investigation by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) of alleged violations by some Winston stores of the State Automotive Repair Act.
 The administrative agreement, negotiated over a 3-1/2 month period, ends the investigation by the state into accusations that some Winston stores improperly charged customers for shocks, springs, or brakes and related service not actually needed, or, in some cases, not performed.
 Under terms of the out-of-court agreement, Winston has agreed to pay $700,000 to the state, $450,000 of which will be used for restitution to consumers identified during the investigation who may have unnecessarily purchased shock absorbers, brakes, calipers or coil springs, and $250,000 to reimburse the state for the cost of the investigation. All consumers eligible for restitution have been identified by BAR and Winston and will receive payment by mail within the next 45 days.
 In addition to the consumer and department restitution, the settlement calls for license discipline and for the mechanical service operations of all Winston stores to close for one day, Sunday, Oct. 31. A separate agreement with the Sacramento and Ventura County district attorneys calls for Winston to pay to those organizations an additional $700,000 for civil penalties and investigative costs.
 "The Department of Consumer Affairs, working with Winston and the Attorney General's office, has fashioned an agreement that protects the people of California and keeps jobs and a hardworking California company working in California," said Sandra Smoley, secretary of State and Consumer Services, the agency that oversees DCA and BAR.
 Winston said that top management was unaware of the alleged violations until informed by DCA and BAR. The company said that it wanted to cooperate fully to reach an amicable settlement and eliminate the potential for future violations. Winston has implemented or plans to implement various programs to prevent the possibility of a recurrence.
 "Today's agreement and the subsequent actions by Winston are excellent examples of how government can ensure the promotion of consumer protection, and how private industry can promote a fair marketplace," said Secretary Smoley.
 "This settlement brings to closure a lengthy and thorough investigation," said Jim Conran, director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. "To the great credit of the management at Winston, they recognized the problems and voluntarily took immediate action to discontinue questionable practices.
 "The checks and balances instituted independently by the Winston organization represent one of the highest standards in the industry," Conran continued. "I encourage automotive repair firms statewide to adopt similar programs to protect consumers."
 The administrative settlement, also involving the State Attorney General's office, placed Winston stores on three years probation, during which time they will be monitored to ensure that there are no additional violations.
 BAR Chief Jim Schoning said that during the course of the investigation, BAR vehicles made 40 undercover runs to 37 of Winston's 163 stores throughout the state. The stores were accused of various violations of regulations promulgated under the Automotive Repair Act.
 Conran noted that one of DCA's goals is aggressive consumer protection, but that DCA's purpose, especially in these difficult economic times, is not to harm California businesses that acknowledge wrongdoing when it has occurred, and are working to remedy the situation.
 Winston Tire, founded over 30 years ago, is a California corporation that operates 163 stores throughout the state, selling tires and other automotive parts and service. The company employs nearly 1,500 Californians and serves approximately 1.5 million customers annually.
 -0- 10/25/93
 /CONTACT: Louis Bonsignore of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, 916-322-2463; or Al Goldberg of Winston Tire, 818-843-7311, ext. 539/


CO: California Department of Consumer Affairs; Winston Tire Co. ST: California IN: SU:

LW-TM -- SF024 -- 6623 10/25/93 19:40 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 25, 1993
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