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New York Auto Service Firms Agree to Ad Reforms

ALBANY, N.Y. August 22, 2004; MICHAEL VIRTANEN writing for the AP reported that four auto service companies have agreed to stop advertising a set price for oil changes while charging additional fees that are not clearly disclosed under a deal New York authorities announced Sunday.

An investigation by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office showed the companies routinely added fees to advertised prices that appeared in large bold print, calling the additions environmental, oil filter disposal or storage and disposal fees.

Settlement agreements were reached with Buffalo Lube Associates, L.P., which operates 16 Valvoline Instant Oil Change shops in western New York; Firestone MasterCare & Tire Services, operator of 61 auto shops statewide; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which operates 50 auto shops in New York; and Monro Muffle Brake Inc., with 143 shops in the state, Spitzer spokeswoman Christine Pritchard said.

The four companies agreed collectively to pay more than $140,000 in civil penalties and costs to the state, Pritchard said.

Goodyear, cooperating with the attorney general's office, in July 2003 stopped charging New York consumers an oil filter disposal fee, has paid $11,564 in costs and denies any liability, spokesman Jim Davis said. The company still charges the fee in other states, he said.

In a statement, Firestone said it was pleased the matter has been settled, avoiding the cost of lengthy litigation. Monroe and Buffalo Lube officials did not immediately return calls for comment.