Volkswagen accused of changing oil maintenance specs in class action

Ann Knef Apr. 3, 2006, 9:51am

Volkswagen of America has been targeted in a St. Clair County class action lawsuit by a group that claims the automaker unfairly changed maintenance specifications which more than doubled their oil change costs.

Lead plaintiff Mildred Kasten of Belleville is represented by John Papa of Granite City, John K. Weston of Sacks & Weston in Jenkintown, Pa. and Joseph L. Tucker of the J. Stephen Jackson firm in Birmingham, Ala.

The lawsuit, which involves 1997-2004 Audi A4s and 1998-2004 Volkswagen Passats, was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court on March 22.

Kasten owns a 1998 Passat.

According to the suit:

  • On Aug. 2, 2004, owners of the affected vehicles were informed by letter that they would need to use more expensive synthetic oil, over less expensive petroleum-based oil. Vehicle warranties are honored only for owners who can prove they've maintained their vehicles on schedule.

  • In a bulletin issued to Volkswagen technicians on Aug. 5, 2004, the the use of a larger oil filter -- which requires the use of more oil -- was prescribed.

    "...The cost of required oil changes of the affected vehicles more than doubled from an average cost of $30 per oil change to $65 per oil change," the complaint states.

    "Nowhere in the August 2004 letter, the insert, or the list of VW-Approved Oils sent to plaintiff and the members of the class did defendant notify owners of the affected vehicles that, in addition to requiring more expensive synthetic oils, defendant also specified that technicians use a larger oil filter and more oil when changing the engine."

    The complaint also alleges that even if owners had complied with the new requirements specified in the August 2004 letter, they could experience engine failure due to the use of the previously required oil filter.

    "Yet," the complaint states, "still be denied warranty coverage for necessary engine repairs resulting from the use of the 'wrong' oil filter."

    The suit claims venue is proper in St. Clair County because the plaintiff resides in Illinois and Michigan-based Volkswagen of America regularly does business in the state.

    "A class action will ensure an orderly and expeditious adminstration of the claims of the class, in that such administration will foster economies of time, effort and expense, as well as uniformity of decision."

    The suit claims Volkswagen breached its contract with owners by unilaterlly changing warranty terms resulting in costs that doubled, violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and became unjustly enriched.

    "By paying out of their own pockets the increased maintenance costs rightfully borne by defendant, the plaintiff and the members of the class have conferred a substantial monetary benefit upon the defendant, thereby unjustly increasing its wealth," the complaint states.

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