Case # TBA
Date: October 27, 2016
AUTO PRODUCT COMPANY TO PAY OVER $750,000 IN CONSUMER PROTECTION SETTLEMENT FOR SELLING MISLEADING AND MISLABELED AUTO OILS AND FLUIDS
SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) has obtained a consumer protection settlement against a Louisiana Company, Smitty’s Supply, Inc. (Smitty’s), resolving allegations of unfair business practices in California relating to the company’s mislabeling of various products including motor oil, transmission fluid, coolant and gear oil. The civil settlement requires that the defendant institute a quality control program to ensure its products meet California’s rigorous consumer protection laws. Additionally, the settlement includes that Smitty’s pay $555,000 in civil penalties to the county and $195,155 in costs to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards (DMS), who investigated the case. The settlement, filed Oct. 25, 2016, was signed yesterday by the Honorable Mary Fingal Schulte.
Smitty’s is a national petroleum and automotive products company that manufactures motor oil, transmission fluid, gear oil, brake fluid and other products under a variety of brand names. Although Smitty’s distributes products throughout the country, this lawsuit was brought by the OCDA and was solely based on California law and is directed only at sales and other wrongful conduct allegedly occurring in California.
During a random testing program initiated in 2012, DMS determined that samples of Custom Plus Motor Oil being sold in Orange County and elsewhere in California were of a lower winter grade than was represented on the bottle label. During a subsequent investigation into other Smitty’s products, DMS alleged other products manufactured by Smitty’s and being offered for sale in Orange County and elsewhere in California were mislabeled (font size on label discrepancies), missing batch numbers, or did not meet specifications pursuant to California law. In California, manufacturers of these automotive and petroleum products are strictly liable for these type of violations because using the wrong product can harm an engine, and in extreme cases can cause an engine to fail. The investigation did not reveal any evidence of actual harm caused to any California consumer by Smitty’s violations.
The injunctive terms of the settlement prohibit Smitty’s from manufacturing and selling petroleum and automotive products which do not strictly meet California and federal law stringent quality and labeling requirements. The defendant is required to implement a testing program that will ensure their products sold in California meet the standards and specifications which are represented on their labels. The defendant admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement agreement. Smitty’s was cooperative during the investigation and worked with DMS to comply with California requirements. They voluntarily purchased additional testing equipment to ensure future batches of product are in compliance with California law.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Cipolletti of the Consumer Protection Unit prosecuted this case.