(WASHINGTON, DC) Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby announced today that the District of Columbia, along with all 50 states and two US territories, has reached a $50 million settlement with Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., resolving charges that the company violated state and District consumer protection laws in connection with its marketing of tires that have been subject to recalls since August of 2000. Under the terms of the settlement, Bridgestone/Firestone has denied any wrongdoing.
The settlement provides that the District and the settling states and territories will each receive a payment of $500,000. The $500,000 payment to the District, plus an additional $26,250 in attorney's fees and costs, will be deposited into the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund and used for future consumer protection enforcement work and for consumer education.
"I am pleased that Bridgestone/Firestone has come to the table and worked out this settlement for the benefit of consumers in the District and throughout the country," Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby said. "This settlement will provide broad protection for those consumers, and it will aid the District government's ongoing effort to enhance consumer protection generally."
The settlement also requires Bridgestone/Firestone to resolve each consumer complaint that has previously been filed with a state or District agency regarding the recalled tires, either by reimbursing the consumer or by submitting the complaint to arbitration. Consumers who in the past were denied a refund or reimbursement, either under the company's "Voluntary Safety Tire Recall Reimbursement Program" or under the Customer Satisfaction Program that the company announced on September 12, 2000, will receive notices in the mail stating that they may seek reconsideration of their refund or reimbursement requests. In addition, Bridgestone/Firestone will pay $5 million toward a national public service announcement campaign to be conducted by the state attorneys general. The settlement does not cover consumers who have not already filed complaints or made refund or reimbursement requests.
The settlement's restitution terms apply to tires from three different tire replacement programs: (1) a recall announced in August 2000, which was applicable to P235/75 R15 Firestone Radial ATX, P235/75 R15 Firestone Radial ATXII, and P235/75 R15 Firestone Wilderness AT tires manufactured at the company's Decatur, Illinois plant; (2) a Customer Satisfaction Program announced on September 12, 2000; and (3) a recall announced on October 4, 2000, which was applicable to Firestone Wilderness AT tires in the P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 sizes produced before May 1998 and used as original equipment on Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers for model years 1995 through 1998.
This settlement resolves a lawsuit filed today in DC Superior Court, in which the District has alleged that Bridgestone/Firestone did not have adequate substantiation for representations that it made to consumers, in violation of the District's consumer protection law. The representations at issue pertained to the suitability of certain tires for use on sport utility vehicles and the longevity of the tires when so used. The complaint also alleges that misrepresentations were made to consumers regarding the availability of replacement tires under the company's Voluntary Safety Tire Recall Program. Bridgestone/Firestone has denied the allegations.
As part of the settlement, Bridgestone/Firestone has agreed to entry of a court order in DC Superior Court prohibiting it from making unsubstantiated claims regarding the safety, performance, or durability of its tires. The order will also require Bridgestone/Firestone to disclose extensive consumer education information, in writing, through its company-owned stores.
Notable among other settlement provisions are:
- Bridgestone/Firestone to reimburse or refer to arbitration certain consumer complaints forwarded to the Attorney's General Offices and/or relevant state agency prior to today.
- Anyone who was denied a refund under the "Voluntary Safety Tire Recall Reimbursement Program" or Customer Satisfaction Program will receive a letter which will explain that the consumer has an option to seek a reconsideration of their refund denial.
- If the consumer returns the forms included with their notice, Bridgestone/Firestone will review the request. If there is credible evidence that a consumer essentially meets each requirement of the aforementioned programs, the consumer will be paid.
- If Bridgestone/Firestone denies the claim, the consumer will be provided notice of the denial and the option to submit their claim to an independent Arbitrator, at no cost.
Permanent Injunction provisions:
- The company may not misrepresent the safety or safety characteristics of any tire or tread pattern.
- Bridgestone/Firestone may not misrepresent the characteristics, manufacturer or appropriate uses of a tire.
- The company must be able to substantiate with competent and reliable scientific evidence any specific claims of tire safety, performance or durability.
- Bridgestone/Firestone may not make misrepresentations during a recall or customer satisfaction program.
- The company shall not provide or facilitate inconsistent information to consumers about tire pressure.
- Bridgestone/Firestone must not make misrepresentations in or retroactively change any guarantee or warranty.
- Bridgestone/Firestone shall not misrepresent the expected life or wear pattern of a tire tread.
- The company must handle consumer complaints in a truthful, ethical and timely manner.
Note: This settlement does not resolve or otherwise affect any pending cases against Bridgestone/Firestone that have been brought directly by consumers, either individually or as a class.
Contact: Peter Lavallee, Public Information Officer, (202) 724-5198.