The BBB is warning consumers about an online engine seller facing legal action.
Leonardo Diaz from Middle River checked for online reviews but didn’t see any red flags.
“I looked them up on Google. I really didn't find reviews on them under SW Engines. I found good reviews, but I guess the bad reviews are under another name,” Diaz said.
Diaz didn't know that the company he purchased an engine from was connected to ten other websites, all with different names.
“I bought the engine,” said Diaz. “It was smoking, there was no compression, it was actually metal shavings coming out, which means the inside of the engine was in bad condition.”
The engine was under warranty so he called SWEngines.com. They agreed to send him a replacement and pay for the install. The engine came but Diaz said he never received a check for the second installation.
“Long story short, I had to pay for the second labor. They sent another engine out and that engine was messed up as well,” said Diaz.
Diaz' budget was for around $2,000 but he ended up paying a lot more.
“With the engine, the two times I had to pay, and the rebuild of the engine, exactly, I think it was $7,843,” said Diaz.
Diaz' complaint is part of a larger pattern. In June, the Wisconsin Department of Justice took action against Engine & Transmission World, LLC along with 13 related businesses.
The business, which is headquartered in Wisconsin, is accused of deceptive marketing and unfair billing practices.
“You go online, you want to shop for engines, they come up on the first page. So, they have high visibility, they have thousands of customers, but they have hundreds of complaints,” said Angie Barnett, president & CEO for the BBB serving Greater Maryland.
Barnett said the company reels in customers through their bargain prices.
“This one is the adage, ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’ People are choosing this because it looks to be the lowest price and they're getting a refurbished engine that most often doesn't work,” Barnett said.
Diaz ended up having his mechanic rebuild his old engine, and he said it's working like new.
His frustration now is with the business he thinks is continuing to operate behind a smokescreen.
“These are people who are family people, who are trying to make ends meet, and they send these engines out knowing that the engines are bad and they send them out not caring,” Diaz said.
Douglas Rose is the lawyer representing Midwest Auto Recycling, LLC and the related businesses.
Rose told ABC2 that the number of complaints are very low in comparison to the amount of transactions the business does. There were about 300 complaints on the BBB’s site and Rose said the business does over 50,000 transactions.
He also said operating under different business names is a common thing, “perfectly appropriate and legal.”
He's since filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and he's hopeful it will be resolved soon. A hearing is set for September 29.
Below is Rose’s full statement on the lawsuit:
"The State of Wisconsin’s complaint against Midwest Auto Recycling and other entities is improper in several ways.
First, there is no recognition of the volume of business that the company does. In the past three years the business has expanded, and there have been over 50,000 transactions. Out of that number of transactions, the number of complaints is approximately 300. That is not an unreasonable number of complaints considering the large volume.
Further, of those approximately 300 complaints, we believe a number of those complaints inherently involve the various mechanics who may have installed the parts improperly. There are many qualified and excellent mechanics, but there are also some, as with any industry, that are not as qualified. Often, when a mechanic fails to install a part correctly, the seller of the part is wrongfully accused of supplying a bad part.
The State did not name the three individuals who complained. They are simply alleged as “unknown.” This makes it almost impossible for us to respond, and to try to find out, for example, if this may have been a situation where the mechanic made an error and there was nothing wrong with the part.
Finally, regarding the various business entities, it is perfectly common to have more than one business entity in different geographic locations. This is done for marketing and advertising purposes, as well as different rules and regulations in different states. CNA Insurance, for example, has many different related companies – Travelers, Continental Casualty, etc. It would be misleading to claim that there is something wrong with any business operating under more than one different corporate format in different locations. This is commonly done, and perfectly appropriate and legal."