Jiffy Lube Franchisee Looks To Settle Text Message Spamming Suits
Heartland Automotive Services, the largest Jiffy Lube franchisee in the United States, is prepared to pay out millions in services and/or cash to settle class action suits brought against the company for what plaintiffs argue was an illegal wireless spam campaign Heartland initiated in April 2011. A hearing has been set later this month to get court approval of the proposed settlement.
According to a court filing dated Aug. 1 by plaintiffs in support of the proposed resolution, more than 2.3 million customers received on April 21, 2011 a commercial text message promoting 45 percent off a “signature service oil change” by enrolling in an “EClub.” The message was sent by a third party, TextMarks Inc., on behalf of Heartland.
According to the plaintiffs, Heartland and TextMarks uploaded a list of more than 2.3 million former Jiffy Lube customers and transmitted text messages en masse to them without the customers’ express consent to receive such text messages. The plaintiffs — who represent the recipients of these text messages — argue that Heartland and TextMarks violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The defendants disagree, arguing (among other things) that Heartland cannot be held liable for the alleged conduct of TextMarks, or vice versa; that the text messages were not sent using an automatic telephone dialing system (a key point under the TCPA); and that the former Jiffy Lube customers had provided their prior express consent to receive text messages.
Class action suits in multiple jurisdictions were filed against the defendants. The cases were eventually consolidated into a single proceeding before the U.S. District Court of California – San Diego division. Heartland sought to compel arbitration and to dismiss the consolidated suit. The court denied both of Heartland’s motions. Mediation of the case began in April 2012. In time, a deal was struck.
Heartland has agreed to provide each member of the class a certificate that can be redeemed in one of two ways:
• The certificate can be exchanged for a number of Jiffy Lube services, such as an antifreeze top-off service, or approximately $17.29 off any service Jiffy Lube offers; or
• After the period for use of Jiffy Lube services expires, class members can redeem the certificate for as much as $12.97 in cash.
The services and cash value of the certificates being made available to the class is roughly $46.84 million and $35.13 million, respectively. Additionally, the settlement provides for an injunction requiring Heartland and TextMarks to ensure that informed written consent be obtained by affirmative action on the part of the customer through a clear written statement regarding the receipt of text message advertisements. And, the defendants would be required to retain proof of all consumer consent to receive text message ads.
If the proposed settlement is not approved by the court, the defendants are prepared to litigate the case through summary judgment and trial, and Heartland would pursue an appeal on its motion to compel arbitration.
A representative of Heartland did not respond to our request for comment on the proposed settlement.
AMRA, MAP Name Director Of Administration
he Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association (AMRA) and the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) have named Joe Henmueller as the association’s director of administration. His duties involve overseeing the MAP technical committee, including establishing meeting sites and topics, as well as handling AMRA’s technical services and office administration.
Henmueller is a 30-year aftermarket veteran. He most recently was manager of operations and compliance for Midas International. Henmueller also previously served on the AMRA board of directors and was co-chairman of the MAP technical committee.
Hennessy Industries Drops Infringement Suit Against Perfect Equipment
Hennessy Industries (Bowling Green, KY) has dismissed its own patent infringement lawsuit against Murfreesboro, TN-based Perfect Equipment. A specific reason for the dismissal is unknown.
Court documents don’t explain why Hennessy dropped the suit, and the company did not respond to our attempt to get an explanation. A representative from Perfect Equipment told Service Executive: “There was a dispute between Hennessy and Perfect, and that dispute has been resolved.” No further information was provided.
Back in May, Hennessey filed a complaint in U.S. district court saying that Perfect Equipment has made, used, sold, offered for sale and/or imported steel clip-on wheel weights that allegedly violate a patent owned by Hennessy. The complaint calls out the following series as being in violation: The PST-Series, AWST-Series, MCST-Series, LHST-Series, IAWST-Series, ENST-Series, FNST-Series and TST-Series.
Hennessy asked the court to determine that Perfect Equipment had infringed on the patent, to permanently stop Perfect Equipment and all others acting in concert with the company from further infringing on the patent, and to award damages to Hennessy to compensate for the alleged infringement.
Hennessy dismissed its suit in August before Perfect Equipment had filed an answer to Hennessy’s complaint.
R.O. Writer Goes Under The Microscope
Progressive Automotive Systems (Itasca, IL) says it has engaged the I.T. consulting firm Cognizant to conduct an assessment of its R.O. Writer shop management system. Cognizant will evaluate the current functionality and future competitive positioning of R.O. Writer, and will develop a growth strategy for the software. This comes as Progressive intends to invest in functional, technical and user interface enhancements to R.O. Writer.
Progressive plans to discuss the progress of its Cognizant partnership at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas this fall.
Patent Infringement Ruling In Favor Of Midtronics Upheld On Appeal
The U.S. appellate court has upheld a lower court’s ruling from 2011 that Argus Analyzers and BP Power sold products containing electronic battery testing technology infringing on patents held by Midtronics. The original complaint was filed six years ago. It was argued that BP Power, a Taiwanese company, developed the infringing products, and Argus imported and sold them in the United States.
In August 2011, U.S. Judge Milton Shadur of the Northern Illinois District ruled in Midtronics’ favor, ordering the defendants to stop making, importing, using and selling a number of their products, including AA350, AA400, AA500, AA500P and AA550P battery testers. Shadur also ordered the defendants to pay attorney fees and expenses.
Argus and BP Power appealed Shadur’s ruling in 2011. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in August 2012 unanimously affirmed Shadur’s ruling, and none of the relief sought in the appeal was granted. No opinion accompanied the judgment.
“The court’s decision definitively validates one of our foundational patents and the strength of our intellectual property portfolio,” Steve McShane, president and CEO of Midtronics, said in a statement. “Midtronics will vigorously defend our innovative technologies as we continue to invest in and advance battery management.”
As of press time, we had not received a formal statement from Argus in response to the appellate court’s decision.
Bridgestone Americas Launches New Firestone Ad Campaign
Bridgestone Americas has launched a new Firestone brand campaign that depicts the tiremaker and service center network operator as a car company. It emphasizes that Firestone has more than 112 years of tire experience and 86 years of service experience, and has serviced 11,000 makes/models and more than 500 million vehicles over the last 86 years.
“People are keeping their cars — be it Chevys, Toyotas or BMWs – now longer than ever (on average 10.8 years) and are in need of a trusted partner to keep them running stronger for the long haul,” explained Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO). “Firestone, with its extensive line of durable and dependable tires and more than 1,600 Firestone Complete Auto Care automotive service centers and its broader Family Dealer network nationwide, is that trusted partner. We created this brand campaign to celebrate the many stages of our lives, and how Firestone helps you reach your destination – time after time after time.”
The commercials used scene set-ups typical of a new car commercial, yet casted more seasoned makes and models as the stars of the ads. The campaign, titled “Drive a Firestone,” is the creative work of Chicago-based Leo Burnett, BATO’s recently selected agency for the multi-faceted Firestone brand.
Rival Lift Manufacturers Sue Each Other For Patent Infringement
Competing lift manufacturers Stertil-Koni USA and Rotary Lift/the Vehicle Service Group (VSG) have filed patent infringement and misleading advertising suits against each other.
Stertil-Koni was first with a complaint — filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland – Baltimore division — filed July 30 accusing VSG of infringing upon a patent Stertil-Koni owns (the 865 patent) that it says was issued in June 2012. Stertil-Koni says the 865 patent covers the company’s Ecolift scissor lift products, which it has sold since March 2005.
According to its complaint, after Stertil-Koni adopted the allegedly unique trade dress of its Ecolift product, VSG made, advertised and sold a model EFX scissor lift that Stertil-Koni says has the same distinctive features as the allegedly unique Ecolift trade dress. Stertil-Koni further accuses VSG of copying Stertil-Koni’s copyrighted Ecolift brochures, as well as making false and misleading claims in performance comparison advertising.
Stertil-Koni wants the court to rule that VSG has infringed upon the 865 patent and be barred from further infringement. Stertil-Koni asks the court to award the company damages for the alleged infringement and the disgorgement by VSG of all profits it has derived from its allegedly unlawful acts.
Addressing Stertil-Koni’s suit, a representative from Rotary Lift/VSG said: “We are confident the EFX product does not infringe upon Stertil-Koni’s U.S. Patent #8,191,865 and plan to fully support all current customers’ products, fulfill all pending orders, and continue making the product commercially available for sale.”
Meanwhile, VSG filed a complaint of its own on Sept. 5 accusing Stertil-Koni of selling lifts — specifically model numbers ST 1075, ST 1082, ST 1100 and ST 1175 — that VSG claims incorporate technology covered by a patent (the 196 patent) that VSG owns. The patent in question was issued in January 2006, according to VSG.
Additionally, VSG accuses Stertil-Koni of competing unfairly in the marketplace by advertising that many of its lifts are “Made in the USA” when, according to VSG, they are not.
VSG wants the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana – New Albany division to find Stertil-Koni to have infringed upon the 196 patent, to stop Stertil-Koni from allegedly infringing upon the patent and to be barred from making “Made in the USA” claims about its lift products. VSG also wants to be awarded damages to compensate the company for Stertil-Koni’s alleged infringement and unfair competition.
“Our recent lawsuit against Stertil-Koni is unrelated to theirs and coincidental in its timing. It is an outcome of a commercial licensing agreement with another manufacturer requiring VSG to establish license agreements for the use of our ‘196 patent or take legal action against those who have not licensed the technology and are infringing on the patent (U.S. Patent 6,983,196),” a spokesperson for VSG/Rotary Lift said in a prepared statement. “This commercial agreement preceded Stertil Koni’s actions against VSG and was in place long before their lawsuit was filed. In addition, VSG’s lawsuit takes exception to Stertil-Koni’s ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ marketing practices which we believe to be false, misleading and overstated.”
CustomerLink Allies With Management Feedback Systems
CustomerLink Systems has partnered with Management Feedback Systems (MFS) to provide automated marketing services to auto repair shops that use the MFS automotive shop management software EasyRO. The pact is meant to encourage EasyRO users to adopt high-level auto repair marketing practices to help them become more profitable — additional tools such as customer review gathering, email and postcard service reminder programs, Facebook and Twitter automation, and a consumer demographics-driven system for finding new customers.
Alldata Expands Ties With AutoVitals
Elk Grove, CA-based Alldata LLC has expanded its strategic agreement with AutoVitals. With the new release, Alldata Market allows shops to optimize websites for mobile viewing and gives service advisors tools to stay in communication with customers through email, text messaging and calendaring.
Instead of waiting for customers to call, advisors can proactively reach out to their customers to schedule upcoming maintenance, send appointment reminders and notify them when cars are ready for pickup. And, in the event of an unexpected repair, advisors can send images of worn or damaged parts to customers, along with an article explaining the repair and why it’s necessary.
TBC Hires Pep Boys Marketing Exec
Scott Stoughton has left Pep Boys to become a senior vice president and chief marketing officer for TBC Corp. Stoughton spent the last four years with Pep Boys — two as director of marketing and advertising followed by two as assistant vice president of marketing. TBC bills itself as the nation’s largest vertically integrated marketer of tires for the automotive replacement market.
Agenda Set For ASRW Industry Forum
Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW) organizers have announced the agenda for this year’s Industry Forum, which will be held on the morning of Oct. 12. ASRW — which encompasses the CARS and NACE shows — will take place Oct. 10-13 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
From 8:30 am to 9:15 am, there are two sessions …
• Manufacturer members of AASA will discuss the intangibles and value-added services that go into quality parts in a panel discussion titled “What Else Is in the Box? More Than Just the Part!” AASA vice president Jack Cameron will moderate. Panelists will include Bobby Bassett of Gates Corp., Scott Howat of the Affinia Group and Jack Vollbrecht of Remy International.
• A panel discussion on where the insurance industry is headed will be moderated by Dan Stander of Fix Auto Highlands Ranch. The panelists — who will address market consolidation, cloud computing and retaining policyholders — include George Avery of State Farm Insurance, Randy Hanson of Allstate, Robert Knott of Nationwide and James Spears of USAA.
From 9:30 am to 10:15 am, there are two sessions …
• Dave Kusa of Autotrend Diagnostics will moderate a mechanical market panel titled “Paving the Road to Success – The Next Generation.” He will be joined by panelists Taylor Hill of Larson’s Service, Josh Ingram of Colchin Automotive & Diesel and Chip Wright of Pete’s Garage.
• A collision parts supplier forum will focus on how suppliers distinguish themselves through distributor certification and customer service, and how suppliers interact with information providers in bringing their parts to market. Denise Caspersen of ASA will moderate. Panelists will include Mike Dolabi of National Autobody Parts Warehouse, Terry Fortner of Keystone/LKQ and Dan Morrisey of PartsChannel.
Tickets for the forum are included in the purchase of a Super Pass or may be purchased individually during online registration or on-site for $50. Attendees may select the forum sessions of their choice.
ASRW Private Meeting Room Space Reservations Being Taken
Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW) organizers, in partnership with CCC Information Services, has announce the return of private meeting rooms during NACE and CARS. These complimentary spaces are available to any registered ASRW 2012 participant (attendee or exhibitor) who requests one.
The meeting rooms will be located on Level 2 of the Morial Convention Center, near the show floor in an area called “The NACE Network.” The space will consist of small and larger private rooms, each equipped with comfortable furnishings, wireless Internet, and a flatscreen or screen projector equipped with a laptop connection.
The NACE Network space will be available Oct 10-13 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. In advance of the show, reservations can be made on a first-come, first-served basis by completing a form on the NACE or CARS websites. On-site reservations also can be accommodated at The NACE Network reception area on a first-come, first-served basis. Each room can be reserved for as much as 90 minutes.
ASRW Announces New Event Exclusively For Collision Repairers
A new event, strictly to qualified collision repairers, will be launched at Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW) next month. The Auto Body Repairers Assembly, which will take place from 4:45 pm to 6:45 pm on Oct. 10, is designed to provide collision repairers with a forum to openly discuss their issues among their peers. Admission is complimentary for repair professionals, and registration is available online.
Repairers and repair organizations are encouraged to bring their issues to the assembly and share their opinions. The format has been designed to funnel the issues and opinions of the assembly into resolutions, action items and directed feedback, depending on the issue. Event organizers say steps will be taken to ensure the assembly is in compliance with all anti-trust guidelines.
Applications Now Open Now For 2013 GAAS Scholarships
Applications are now being accepted at AutomotiveScholarships.com for the 2013 Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium (GAAS) scholarship awards competition.
The scholarships are available to students in two-year technical college programs and vocational schools, as well as four-year college programs. To receive a GAAS scholarship, applicants must be enrolled full-time in a college-level program or an ASE/NATEF certified automotive technical program. Graduate programs and part-time undergraduate programs do not qualify.
Technician recipients can receive two financial grants: one while in school to assist with tuition, and an equivalent grant awarded to scholarship recipients who graduate from their program and show proof of post-graduation employment as a technician in the automotive aftermarket for at least six months.
By completing a single online application at AutomotiveScholarships.com, students will be considered for GAAS scholarships, as well as scholarships from a number of industry partners.
The deadline to apply is March 31, 2013.
AAPEX Adds Extra Day To Learning Forum Schedule
AAPEX Learning Forum sessions are being extended to four days this year — starting on Monday, Oct. 29, instead of Tuesday, and continuing throughout the event. The new schedule will include more than 30 sessions that are all free and open to everyone. Specific sessions are recommended for general aftermarket audiences, WDs, manufacturers, retailers, repair shops and parts stores. Click here for a complete list of Learning Forum sessions.
ETI Seeks Speakers For ToolTech 2013
The Equipment & Tool Institute (ETI) is looking for 30-minute presentations, 60-minute presentations, as well as moderators for roundtable discussions and workshops for ToolTech 2013, which will be held April 23-25 in San Diego. ETI’s main selection criteria is that sessions fit into the event’s theme: “Driving the Innovation that Drives the Aftermarket,” provide attendees with key information and takeaways that can be incorporated as soon as they return to the office, benefit at least one vertical segment of ETI membership, not be too controversial, and no company or product pitches.
Click here to submit proposals to be a speaker at ToolTech 2013. The deadline for proposals is Sept. 28.
Registration Now Open For MACS 2013 Training Event, Trade Show
Registration is now open for the 33rd annual MACS Worldwide Training Event & Trade Show, which will be held Feb. 7-9 at the Caribe Royale Hotel & Convention Center in Orlando, FL. To view a program schedule or to register, visit the MACS website or call the MACS office at (215) 631-7020 ext. 0.
Transtar Touts Driveline Assessment Info
Transtar Industries (Cleveland) has added driveline assessment information to its 2012 torque converter catalog. Drawn from OE and aftermarket information, the new Driveline Needs Assessment (DNA) feature takes common symptoms like overheating, shudder and slippage, and produces all known solutions tired directly to specific transmissions and torque converters.
Snap-On CEO Recognized By SkillsUSA
SkillsUSA has selected Nick Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on Inc., as its 2012 Champion of the Year. The award recognizes the leadership of a corporate executive in supporting and influencing the growth of a skilled work force throughout America. It also recognizes executives and their corporations for involvement in promoting career and technical education and for support of SkillsUSA, a nonprofit that strives to provide a quality work force in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.
Glass Doctor Names New VP Of Operations
Brad Voreis has been named vice president of operations at Glass Doctor, following the resignation of Doug Dotson. Dotson left in order to commit full-time to the family business, a Glass Doctor franchise located in Waco, TX. He has been a part of the Glass Doctor team for 11 years.
Voreis has spent the last year as a franchise consultant at Glass Doctor, working with more than 30 franchisees across the United States. Prior to working with the corporate office, Voreis was CFO and operations manager for the Glass Doctor of North Texas franchise.
Glass Doctor offers glass repair, replacement and services to the automotive, residential and commercial markets at more than 270 locations in the United States and Canada. Glass Doctor began franchising in 1977 and, in 1998, joined The Dwyer Group, an international franchisor of service industry companies. There are more than 180 Glass Doctor franchise owners across the United States and Canada.
New Mitsubishi App Designed To Accelerate Roadside Assistance
Mitsubishi Motors North America has introduced a new roadside assistance application. The free app is available for iPhone-compatible devices and included among the free benefits Mitusbishi dealers provide to new vehicle owners. It puts drivers in touch with a roadside assistance agent who can dispatch assistance to the caller’s location. The service includes towing (to the nearest Mitsubishi retailer); lockout assistance; battery jump-starting; flat tire change; and emergency gasoline delivery.
The app also includes an estimated time of arrival for the dispatched tow service or service provider, as well as updates on the progress of the responding tow truck or service vehicle. The app can be downloaded from the App Store on iTunes. It was developed by Agero, Mitsubishi’s roadside assistance provider.
Nissan Announces U.S. Online Appointment-Scheduling Partner
Nissan North America has selected Xtime’s ServiceCRM platform to power its One to One online service-scheduling program for the U.S. market. ServiceCRM offers fully priced, VIN-specific, bookable service menus with “factory,” “premium” and “dealer recommended” service levels, confirmation of appointments sent to customers via email or text, and online notification of maintenance service or repair progress.
The automaker is subsidizing the subscription cost of ServiceCRM for all of its U.S. dealers.
News Briefs 9/12/12
• The Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association (AMRA) and the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) will celebrate their 20th anniversary at the Fall Membership Meeting to be held at the Monte Carlo Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas during Industry Week.
• Mitchell 1 has launched a news and product updates blog for its ProDemand repair information software. The blog can be found on the ProDemand homepage.
• Integrated Services Inc. (ISI), a point-of-sale software provider to the fast-lube industry, has added Carfax QuickVIN to its LubeSoft software. This allows users to retrieve the year, make, model and VIN information of their customers’ cars by entering only the license plate information.
• Mac Tools now offers a free smartphone application, called TaskMobile Lite, that defines “Check Engine Light” diagnostic trouble codes. The app is available for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
• For the fifth consecutive year, the SEMA Show will include a program designed for franchise and independent automotive dealers. The goal is to help dealers be successful at selling accessories. The program includes discussions on accounting, fixed operations, finance and insurance, new and used sales, and accessory sales, as well as an insider’s tour of the show.
• Alldata’s first product designed specifically for the European market (Alldata Repair) is being introduced to the public this week at Automechanika in Frankfurt. The company currently is an official licensee of information for 12 brands: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, Opel, VW, Mini, Skoda, Smart, Citroen, Fiat, Renault and Peugeot.
• The Equipment & Tool Institute (ETI) is offering an introductory membership program: Join ETI as a member of the mechanical systems group, collision repair group or service information group before Dec. 31, 2012 and agree to attend two of ETI’s three major events in 2013, and ETI will waive a company’s dues for your first year of membership.