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© 1998-2002 Brian F. Schreurs
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© 1998-2002 Brian F. Schreurs
© 1998-2002 Brian F. Schreurs
Would you believe, some shysters out there are trying to sell bum products! We're not going to name any names... who are we kidding?? We love naming names!! Take the information provided here and protect yourselves! This is all legitimate stuff -- we don't publish rumors.|
If you are part of a settlement class in a class-action lawsuit against an automotive-related company, please contact us here. Even if your settlement is confidential or sealed, screw 'em! The public (your friends, family, and neighbors) have a right to know! Send the preliminary notice or final notice (or both!) anonymously to Coltrane Productions. Get the word out about lies in the auto industry!
The Oil Additive Question
The Case of the Awful Additive
Alas, Additional Additive Aggravation
The Case of the Sorry Spark
The Case of the Gluttonous Gas
The Case of the Dastardly Donut
The Oil Additive QuestionThe biggest lie of all is that of oil additives. Think about it: cars ran just fine for 90 years without additives beyond what the oil producers use. Why do we suddenly need them now? If we need them, why don't the manufacturers recommend -- or require -- them? Additive proponents have long pointed to some sort of conspiracy between the OEM and oil manufacturers. Except, that doesn't hold water now that Slick 50 is owned by Quaker State. So where's the "conspiracy" now?
But don't take our word for it. Read the most thorough article from Road Rider magazine (August 1992), by Fred Rau. "Snake Oil! Is That Additive Really a Negative?" pretty well speaks for itself.
We found it interesting that QMI, an additive manufacturer, felt it necessary to write a rebuttal to this article. Owen Heatwole, Vice President of Technical Services at QMI, wrote the QMI Counterpoint. Although he raises interesting issues, we did not find it persuasive, and we explain why in the text.
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The Case of the Awful AdditiveThere's probably not a better-known name in the world of oil additives than Slick 50. They pretty much defined the market. Which makes it all the more interesting that they've been sued, big time.
The Federal Trade Commission took the first shot by filing a Complaint in 1996. In this complaint, they alleged that Slick 50 was lying when the company claimed that engines need Slick 50 during startup; or to prevent premature engine failure; or to reduce engine wear; or that it coats engine parts with PTFE; or that it increases horsepower or fuel efficiency, or lowers engine temperatures or emissions; or that it meets military specs or is used in government vehicles. Which is basically everything that Slick 50 claims in their advertising.
This case dragged on for a while, even as the company changed hands. Eventually Slick 50 elected to settle with the FTC. This settlement bars Slick 50 from making any of the above claims about the product and required Slick 50 to distribute at least $10 million in rebates.
What fascinates us is that Slick 50 is no longer allowed to claim a benefit from using their product. Yet it still sells. People will buy anything. Don't be one of them!
But it doesn't stop there for Slick 50. The class-action lawyers stepped in.
Although there are several suits against Slick 50, the one we have information on is Raysic v. Quaker State-Slick 50 Inc.. They made it easy by creating a Slick 50 Class Action Information Center (now offline). Here's the deal:
According to the Preliminary Settlement Notice, shortly after the FTC action began, Slick 50 was hammered with eight class-action lawsuits. Some of these eventually consolidated with Raysic while others are still pending.
These class-actions all basically held the same grievances as the FTC action and resulted in much the same solution: Slick 50 saying they did nothing wrong but paying out tons of money.
The settlement provides for the distribution of $20 million in rebates -- which, in our mind, suggests that Slick 50 would rather make a huge payoff than face a detailed scrutiny of their business practices. Which, further, suggests that Slick 50 should be avoided at all cost. Which is what we intend to do.
This $20 million in rebates is available to anyone who has purchased a bottle of Slick 50 before 23 September 1997. Each person will receive $15.00 in rebates per purchase of Slick 50. The catch is, it's not cash. You have to buy Quaker State products to get your money. For a product which is generally acknowledged to cause the occasional engine seizure, this seems more like a slap in the face than a settlement. But there you go.
At least the lawyers get rich. The Preliminary Settlement Notice also provides for the lawyers to pursue $3.25 million in cash to reimburse expenses.
The parties in Raysic reached a settlement on 31 January 1998, which was conditionally certified by the court on 16 March 1998. The court held a fairness hearing on 13 July 1998, when it issued a notice of final settlement. Class members have until 16 November 1998 to identify themselves and receive the rebate vouchers. We have the full text of the Preliminary Settlement Notice and the Final Settlement Notice.
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Alas, Additional Additive AggravationSo you still haven't gotten the message? Still think some additives are okay, and others are bad? Like there's some kind of magic elixir that only certain companies have? Some people just can't deal with the fact that they've been misled, and if you're one of those, we'll never convince you to quit using additives. For the rest, who are interested in evidence, we've started to compile actions against other additive makers -- and there are quite a few of them.
Castrol Syntec Power System: Castrol got busted along with a couple other companies for claiming that Shell's PEP molecule would make engines run better. There's a lot of detail about this in the complaint lodged directly against Shell, but Castrol also is faced with a product that it is no longer allowed to claim does any good. We have the following documents relating to Federal Trade Commission v. Castrol North America, Inc.: the original FTC Complaint, the Agreement Containing Consent Order, and the Decision and Order.
Dura Lube Engine Treatment: Dura Lube used to run very thorough infomercials touting their canned snake juice -- that is, until the FTC pursued charges against them and their advertising agency. Dura Lube chose to settle instead, agreeing to a wide array of advertising sanctions and a recall of all existing Dura Lube advertising. So what does Dura Lube do? They can't say, since they can't prove any benefits. They also suffered from half a dozen class-action lawsuits, which were all settled out of court, ultimately resulting in $2 million in fines, $942,500 in legal fees to the plaintiffs, $250,000 in cash refunds to buyers, and coupon booklets attached to bottles for a year. We have the following documents relating to Federal Trade Commission v. Dura Lube Corp., et. al.: the original FTC Complaint and the Agreement Containing Consent Order. Also, thanks to the cooperation of Freed & Weiss, we have a copy of the class-action Garza and Marquez v. Dura Lube Corp., et. al. Stipulation of Settlement.
Motor Up No Oil Change Engine Treatment Concentrate: Motor Up got hit hard when the FTC took notice of their little operation; so hard that you'll be hard-pressed to find their products on shelves anymore. They went so far as to require the owner of the company to report his employment status for the next decade. The FTC definitely was not pleased with this product! Apparently, the company decided to cut its losses and accept the judgment, as there is no record of a court battle. The documents we have for Federal Trade Commission v. Motor Up Corp. et. al. are: the original FTC Complaint and the Agreement Containing Consent Order.
Prolong Engine Treatment Concentrate: A longtime favorite of the restoration set, Prolong got slapped around by the FTC in 1999. On 22 November 1999, the makers of Prolong reached an agreement with the FTC wherein they wouldn't have to pay a fine but they would have to immediately cease all claims that Prolong will reduce engine wear, extend engine life, reduce corrosion, protect against breakdowns, or that what works in a racecar will work in a street-driven car. We have the following documents relating to Federal Trade Commission v. Prolong Super Lubricants, Inc.: the original FTC Complaint, the Agreement Containing Consent Order, the Decision and Order, and one commissioner's partial dissent.
Shell Vektron 3000 "PEP" Additive: This additive was created and marketed by Shell, but not sold directly to consumers. It was sold to other companies who put it in their gasoline additive products, such as Castrol Syntec Power System and Slick 50 Synchron Premium Octane Treatment (there's that troublesome Slick 50 again). The problem, like other additives, is that the PEP molecule doesn't do what it's told, and having the additive in your fuel won't do jack squat other than lighten your wallet. So, on 22 December 1999, the FTC put the smackdown on Shell and told them to quit claiming their product has any benefits. Shell caved without a fight, which tells you what they think of their product. We have the following documents relating to Federal Trade Commission v. Shell Oil Company et. al.: the original FTC Complaint, the Agreement Containing Consent Order, the Decision and Order, a statement by the commissioners, and one commissioner's partial dissent.
Valvoline TM8 Engine Treatment: Valvoline jumped on the Teflon bandwagon, and got rudely thwacked off again by the FTC. The FTC charged that TM8 was useless snake oil; Ashland, Valvoline's parent, declined to contest this characterization, and agreed to a long list of things that they are no longer allowed to claim the product can do. Later, TM8 was also the target of a class action lawsuit, which Ashland settled out of court for $4.2 million in coupons for the public, $750,000 for the lawyers, and $5,000 for the guy who initiated the suit (demonstrating once again that it's far better to be the lawyer than the plaintiff). The documents we have for Federal Trade Commission v. Ashland. Inc. are: the original FTC Complaint, the Agreement Containing Consent Order, and the Decision and Order. Thanks to the cooperation of Freed & Weiss, LLC, we also have a copy of the Blackwell v. Ashland, Inc. Stipulation of Settlement.
zMax Power System: Oil-Chem Research Corp., a subsidiary of Speedway Motorsports Inc. (yeah, the guys who own all those NASCAR tracks), have been marketing this kit of three additives: one each for oil, fuel, and transmission. They claim rather impressive gains with the product, and claim that their results are laboratory-proven. The FTC disagreed with this assessment, and in a suit for a permanent injunction the FTC accused Oil-Chem of falsifying the test results. The FTC also charged that zMax is nothing but mineral oil, and that it actually causes a 50% increase in bearing wear, proven by Oil-Chem's own testing! Oil-Chem didn't take this lying down, and Federal Trade Commission v. Speedway Motorsports went unresolved for quite a while. One of the more creative assertions in defense of zMax was that the benefits of using zMax need not be backed by "competent and scientific evidence", but only "reasonable basis" (the "lower your expectations and we'll meet them" defense). Finally, in one of the more convoluted additive rulings, both sides have claimed victory: the FTC has restricted zMax advertising and imposed a $1 million mandatory consumer refund, while Oil-Chem is ecstatic to still be able to advertise that zMax helps your car by reducing engine deposits. Unfortunately the settlement doesn't address the issue of whether zMax is little more than colored mineral oil. The bottom line seems to be that zMax works as a solvent of some kind, so if you have a sludged-up engine it'll help clean it up. Oil-Chem apparently has documentation to back its claims but, for whatever reason, doesn't want the public to see it. To let you make up your own mind about zMax, we've got the stipulated final order, the zMax press release, a request to approve advertising claims, and the FTC Enforcement Division's conditional approval. Of greatest interest, compare the approved advertising claims with the ones in the permanent injunction, paragraphs 15 and 18, to see what's changed.
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The Case of the Sorry SparkSplitFire relentlessly advertised for years that their spark plugs were superior due to a V-shaped electrode. This magical elecrode supposedly delivered more horsepower and better fuel economy. Praise was so universal for the plugs that even skeptics like us were beginning to sway. Then the Federal Trade Commission came to SplitFire's party and peed in the punchbowl.
In Federal Trade Commission v. SplitFire, Inc., the FTC demanded that SplitFire quit making claims that their spark plugs improve fuel economy, horsepower or emissions, and further quit claiming that testimonials in favor of the spark plugs are typical results of using them. SplitFire agreed to this, which they could have avoided if they had a shred of evidence to show that the plugs do, in fact, work as advertised. We have the Complaint, the Agreement Containing Consent Order, and the Decision and Order.
Hot on the heels of the FTC action, there's this pitiful excuse of a class-action settlement called Singleton v. SplitFire Inc. If there was ever a posterboy for the right to opt out, this case is it.
So Alvin Singleton and Julie Massier, our representatives, decide that SplitFire plugs are defective and sue. They make it a class-action to "help" us. What do they settle for? Two free SplitFire spark plugs and the right to buy six more at 25% off. Great! Thanks a lot!! To make reparations for selling useless spark plugs, they're giving away useless spark plugs! Where's the justice here?
It's probably a good idea to opt out of this stupid settlement. With any luck, someone with bigger kahunas will come along and force a settlement with some teeth. Of course, as usual it doesn't hurt to be a lawyer -- the stipulation guarantees them $750,000 in expenses and gives them the right to pursue $2 million.
This settlement was filed with the court on 17 February 1998. It was made final on 19 June 1998 and the window to be recognized as a class member mercifully closed on 19 October 1998. We have the full text of the Stipulation of Settlement and Compromise.
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Well, as always, common sense wasn't enough for many Americans to struggle through their day, and the Federal Trade Commission had to step in to make the gas people rein in their advertising claims. Though several companies were caught by this "sting" of sorts, the one we have documentation for is Exxon. Exxon was not only told to knock it off with the advertising claiming that premium gasoline was better for cars than regular, but also was forced to produce television advertisements and free literature that describes the proper method for selecting the right octane for your car! Talk about a kick in the nads!
So, the bottom line here is, if your car's manual says it doesn't need premium, then don't let Exxon or anybody else convince you otherwise.
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The Case of the Dastardly DonutFirestone isn't the only tire company suffering humiliation these days. We haven't covered the Firestone debacle because a couple of other media outlets handled it pretty well without us, but no one seems to be squawking about Cooper Tire's recent troubles.
Seems for the last 15 years or so Cooper has been allowing a few duds to roll out the door. Tires with serious defects, which are then prettied up and sent on their way anyhow. Sure, we can see the temptation; after all, tires are hard enough to dispose of without having to deal with thousands of defects before they're even used! But, that's no excuse to pass the problems along to the customer, and in Anthony Talalai v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., they've been called on it. Oh sure, the settlement has all the usual disclaimers about how they've done nothing wrong and they're just settling to get past the "distraction" of litigation, but they've agreed to a mighty stiff set of penalties for a company that thinks they're in the right. This suit provides:
Ouch, that's an awful lot of sanctions to swallow if you've done nothing wrong! Cooper Tire has established a litigation website with a lot of information, but it will probably sadden them to learn that we have chosen to archive the preliminary settlement and the list of brand and tire names. Check the list carefully; they make tires under other names, including one that sounds like "Pirelli" and another that sounds like "Yokohama".