Monday, 30 June 2003 10:00

5 Caliber So. Cal shops hit with accusations of fraud

Late breaking news

The State Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) announced on July 2 that it has filed accusations against five more Caliber Collision Center locations, including El Cajon (N. Johnson Avenue), Riverside (Indiana Avenue), Costa Mesa, Chino and Murietta. 

In April, the BAR accused Caliber locations in Walnut and Fresno of fraud, charging for parts and services that were not provided, gross negligence, making false and misleading statements, and departure from accepted trade standards. The five most recent accusations are similar to those in April. The BAR claims that the five Caliber shops named in the July accusations charged "for more than $10,000 in repair work that was never provided." Caliber executives were not immediately available for comment at press time. Caliber has previously branded the BAR's actions as "a pattern of regulatory abuse."

In a separate action, Caliber said on July 1 that it had obtained a Court injunction to protect the registration at its San Marcos facility. The BAR refused to reissue a registration to the San Marcos shop in North San Diego County. Caliber purchased that shop several years ago and had been operating on a registration issued to the former owner. That registration is due to expire October 31, 2003 and when Caliber began the process of renewing it, the State denied the application. Caliber says that it received notification from the BAR that the license for the San Marcos facility was denied based upon the alleged violations at two other Caliber centers in California.

Faced with a shutdown at its San Marcos facility, Caliber went to court and asked for an injunction stopping the BAR from denying the new registration. In asking for the injunction, Caliber said the BAR's unconstitutional action would have illegally closed a collision repair business that has served the San Marcos community for over 15 years and that the BAR's action would also have resulted in the loss of jobs for 22 Californians.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Lisa Foster ordered the BAR to validate the registration submitted by Caliber for its San Marcos facility. Further, the court ordered that the registration shall be valid until further order of the court. The court also restrained and enjoined BAR from enforcing their decision that denies the validation of Caliber's application for registration of its existing San Marcos facility.

Caliber says it was "compelled to bring legal action after the BAR denied Caliber's constitutionally protected right to due process." The legal filing submitted to the Superior Court asserted that the court's immediate intervention is required to invalidate the illegal conduct of the BAR, whose "unlawful and patently arbitrary action threatens to decimate one of Southern California's most successful entrepreneurial companies employing over 1,000 state residents." Further, the filing stated that the BAR's June 26 action plainly violates the express requirements of the BAR's controlling legislation, The Automotive Repair Act.

A spokesman for the State Depart-ment of Consumer Affairs, the parent agency to the BAR, had no comment on the matter.

Not minor charges

Regarding its latest charges against the five Southern California Caliber locations, BAR Chief Patrick Dorais said, "These are not just minor paperwork violations. These are serious violations of the Automotive Repair Act.... One of the shops (Costa Mesa) is already on three years probation for similar offenses," said Dorais. That shop was shut down for five days and was required to reimburse BAR $8,000 in investigative costs in a settlement reached last year.

The BAR said its latest investigation into Caliber began in October 2002 as a result of information that was reported to the BAR by the California Department of Insurance.