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Protection Direct, Auto Warranty Service Program: A Good Deal?

Recently, I received the letter below from a company named "Program headquarters (SPD)." Perhaps you have received this letter, too:

Letter from SPD a/k/a Protection Direct

At first, I was not going to write about this, but after receiving two letters from SPD a blog post seemed appropriate. I hadn't heard of SPD before, and the way the company listed its name in the letter seemed odd.

A quick Google search found an entry about SPD at the Better Business Bureau website. SPD, which has an "F" rating, goes by the names "Service Protection Direct" and "Protection Direct." When a company uses several names, the names on its letterhead and website don't match, and the letter fails to provide a website address that is usually a red flag alert to me. This letter reminded me a lot of my experience with Shelton & White (a/k/a Larson Keller).

While most of the complaints against SPD on the BBB website appear to have been resolved, the nature of the complaints was troubling:

"Complainants primarily allege misleading sales or advertising practices, in many cases claiming that they were led to believe that this firm was associated with the manufacturer or dealer, when they are not, difficulty canceling contracts and obtaining refunds, that the firm failed to cover needed repairs, poor customer service and that they received harassing sales calls or solicitations, even after the consumer requested that they cease."

That didn't sound good. My Google search also found this St. Louis Business Journal article from 2009:

"Despite an agreement last year between the Missouri attorney general’s office and one of St. Louis’ largest vehicle service contract companies, the BBB said Thursday it has received 80 complaints about the firm so far this year. That’s up from the 60 complaints received in the four months before the state’s agreement with Service Protection Direct, now known as Protection Direct and owned by TXEN Partners..."

So SPD or Protection Direct has been doing this form of marketing since 2008. Maybe things have gotten better during the three years since. In March 2010, the Missouri Attorney General's office stated that it was:

"... creating a task force to look at sales practice guidelines designed to stop auto service contract fraud, the number one complaint to the Attorney General's office in 2009... the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration began regulating service contract providers and administrators in 2008, but some independent marketers are not licensed and have continued to run roughshod over consumers... these marketers have used misleading letters, postcards, and telephone sales marketing to lure consumers into purchasing service contract coverage without providing basic information about that coverage... while consumers believed they were extending auto warranties, they were actually purchasing service contracts or automotive additives."

While complaints in Missouri about auto warranty/service programs have dropped due to prosecution, the Missouri Attorney General's office on February 25, 2011 still listed auto warranty/service scams in its the top 10 scams listing. So, there are several companies operating in the auto warranty/service program space, besides SPD. The reverse side of the SPD letter I received mentioned several states: New York, Wisconsin, Texas, and Florida. So, Protection Direct is marketing in several states.

Next, I visited the Protection Direct website to see how it addressed any of the above concerns. My experience at the website wasn't much better than the letter. The Service Facts page seemed to only list the costs of various auto repairs. That was technically accurate, but not very helpful. And, it seemed like a scare tactic.

The News page included an April 4 item about the poor BBB rating above, with a general promise that the company is working with the BBB to improve that rating. I completed the "Find Your Plan" form on the home page, and the results page didn't deliver any plan information. Instead, the results page linked me to another form page. That was not helpful, and it seemed to me like a slick attempt to get website visitors to reveal more personal data without delivering a quote or any real value first.

To learn a little more, I called the phone number on the SPD letter. The representative that answered was very polite; not pushy at all. When I asked how SPD got my name and auto information, she said, "SPD has access to the same databases as auto dealers." That answer wasn't helpful. I asked what that meant and the phone representative said she didn't know. Not good.

I expect more from a company. It should be able to sufficiently explain where it got my name and auto information from. The reverse side of the letter I received included this fine print:

"PRESCREEN & OPT-OUT NOTICE: This "prescreened" offer of credit is based on information in your credit report indicating that you meet certain criteria."

What? I wonder how accurate that statement is. If it is true, SPD should not have contacted me because it shouldn't have been able to access my credit reports. I placed a Security Freeze on my three credit reports three years ago. And, I opted out of pre-screen credit offers years ago. Perhaps, SPD obtained my name from one of the smaller, regional credit bureaus.

More likely, SPD purchased my name and auto data from the state registry of motor vehicles. Many consumers don't realize that many states do sell this driver data. This lawsuit highlighted the fact that many states sell driver information to marketing companies. If true, then the disclaimer on the back of the SPD letter is misleading and inaccurate.

The phone representative (and the letter) mentioned Marathon Financial Insurance as a provider of coverage for SPD. To the good, Marathon has a far better BBB rating: A+. That is encouraging, but the BBB "F" rating for SPD and my negative experience far outweigh that.

While on the phone, the rep promised a quote if I answered a few questions. After answering about four questions, that seemed again like an attempt to get more personal data out of me. I refused to answer any more questions and asked for a quote. I'd already provided my auto's mileage, year, and general condition -- which should have been enough. The rep declined politely and said that she needed to ask all of these questions to get to a quote. I asked for a quote range instead, and again she declined. At that point, we agreed to end the phone call.

About five days later, a different phone rep from Protection Direct called me at home and provided a quote: about $3,800 over three years. Then, the phone rep explained what repairs were covered and discounted the quote to $2,800 to get me to sign up immediately. I asked for a contract to review first. The rep said the Protection Direct doesn't send out contracts due to cost reasons, and offered a 30-day trial instead. I could cancel in 30 days and get a refund.

I thanked the phone rep for his flexibility and repeated my request to see the contract first. At that point, we decided to terminate disucsson as Protection Direct and I couldn't agree on how to proceed. If there is one thing I have learned while writing this blog, it's that the contractual fine print is critical. It always lists what is provided and what is covered/reimbursed.

Should consumers buy an auto replacement warranty/service program? Only you can decide that for yourself. You know your needs and budget best. Me? I'll pass. I don't see the value. The amounted quoted by Protection Direct was about the same amount as I would have spent anyway on auto maintenace and repairs. Protection Direct's clumsey letter, unhelpful website, and refusal to provide a contract first were obstacles.

If my auto needs repairs, I get it repaired at an auto dealer. If the repairs are expensive, I'll get several estimates first; and then get my auto repaired at the shop with the lowest estimate. If the repairs are prohibitively expensive, I'll just buy another used car.

What is your opinion of Protection Direct? If you purchased a warranty program from Protection Direct or another company, what was your experience?

Comments

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auto warranty services

U.S. Fidelis reached customers by write or e-mail and told them that their existing auto warranties were going to run out – but that the company could expand them for payments trimming from $2,000 to $4,000.

Sandi S.

I recently changed my tags from Cali to Texas, then I received this same letter. My vehicle is not new, I simply moved state and changed registration. My biggest question is: how did they get my name and details of vehicle. Was this through the clerks office that I made payment of registration to?. I will be calling them tomorrow to find out and I will add a comment here relating to that call/answer.

George

Sandi and everyone:

Companies buy drivers' data directly from the state RMVs, from data brokers, or both. State governments are reluctant to share these facts with their residents. Read this:

http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/07/florida-drivers-data.html

Then, contact your state government representatives and demand transparent, direct notice of what your state is doing.

George
Editor
http:/ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

Brenda Rosario

I got the company to send me what they cover in a PDF file, which is secured. I can not copy this file or change it. I can print it. My question is this legal and binding. The company quoted me total of 3050.00 payment plan of 237.00 down and 234.72/month for 12 months no interest. Have to have this plan for 45 days and 1000 miles before you can open a claim. I can stop it within the first 60 days for full refund. After that it will be prorated, by miles driven and length of time I have had it. Has anyone bought and used this ?

Brenda Rosaro

Interesting I just found this on the net...copy of the pdf file they sent me in email.. [PDF]
PRESTIGE PLAN

obligor of this CONTRACT – Consumers Services of Florida, Inc., (FL License # 60017 ). 1716 Corporate Crossing Suite 2, P.O. Box 961, O'Fallon, IL 62269, ...

www.protectiondirect.com/contracts/PST%20RS-FL.pdf- Similarto PRESTIGE PLAN

Eric S.

What I think is funny is they open by saying your factory 36 month/36k miles warranty may have passed. My vehicle is a 2000 model, which anyone not math impaired would know is way older than 36 months. And it has almost 275k miles - I am spending less than $200/mo on average to keep it running, so I think I'll trash this letter and take my chances :) It smelled like a rat; thank God for Google...

laura

I received these letters as well. I thought it was legit because they came the same time as a letter from the DMV saying my warranty had expired. I called and the guy seemed very nice and laid back at first and gave me a quote for $3470 for 4 years of coverage. But he became very rude and pushy as soon as I started questioning whether or not I thought it would be worth it. He told me that obviously I didn't understand anything he was saying and that I obviously don't know anything about owning a car and asked me why I bothered calling in the first place. I kept asking if I could think about it and call back later, and he angrily kept saying, "No, it doesn't work that way. You don't get it! Haven't you been listening to what I've been telling you?!" He kept ranting, so I just hung up. I also wonder where they got my info from because I just moved and opted out of receiving pre-screened offers as well.

laura

Right after posting that last comment, I got a phone call from Protection Direct saying they knew I called earlier and had "great news" about an even better offer than before due to my low mileage and good driving habits. I hope they back off and no one else falls for this shit.

Sara

Thank you for this post. I received this letter and have also just moved recently (Michigan to North Dakota) and had my plates switched over. Wonder if they are targeting people who have changed states within the last few years.

Carmen

I got my 2nd letter from them so I decided to call. the man was very nice until I told him I would like to think about it first because I had to commit to a 5 year deal. (I also wanted to compare other extended vehicle warranties). He would not take NO for an answer. I hung up and he kept calling despite the fact that my husband kept answering the phone and actually told him, he was annoying him with the call backs. We ended up leaving the phone off the hook for about an hour so that we would not hear the phone ring anymore.

Nicole Vickers

Though I don't have any experience regarding that matter, I suggest we carefully examine the auto-warranty program we are using. Otherwise, we might regret the results.

test

How did they get information about what model of car you have, and what year it is?

George

Dear test and everyone:
Read this to understand how they get information about drivers and the cars registered in their state:

http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/07/florida-drivers-data.html

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

Past SPD Employee

I worked for SPD for one month (September 2010). I will say that Marathon, the company their VSC is through, seems to be on the up and up. While there, I saw actual claim checks for payouts for repair work that was done on the vehicle.

What is questionable is their sales tactics. They will try to force you to buy on the phone. As a matter of fact, if you stay on the phone long enough, your price could easily go down by up to $2,500. Also, if you are on long enough, they will offer you the option of signing up for their "month-to-month" service. This actually isn't a bad deal - I saw customers put $75 down and have unlimited mileage/unlimited time coverage for $75 per month. If you have a car that's out of warranty, this COULD be a good way to spread out your expenses more evenly.

The sales staff there is under a lot of pressure. You have to have a closing ratio of 10% or higher otherwise, you can be fired. This isn't just on interested prospects either. This is based on any calls that come in. For example, if a customer reaches the sales line when they need customer service, that's counted toward your 10 calls. If a customer wants to be opted out of their direct marketing "campaign", that counts toward your 10 calls. And, when a customer signs up for the "month-to-month" option, the original selling rep gets no credit for the "sale".

Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure on the reps and they apply that same pressure to customers. I was fired after two weeks of low closing percentages, and I think it was for the best - considering that I don't have the "guts" to sell hard.

sharon

I got the same letter and the thing with my car is that its a 1999 and it was donated to me.

Karen

Yep, I've just gotten a couple of these letters after moving to NC. They must have gotten it from the DMV. Glad I read this blog!

michele allec

i recieved the same letter!!!and my car was junkd!thanks to infinity insuranmce!!they suck 26.000-3500thats how much i paid for the car and insurance had me on sum r.s.v.p. crapsaid i had full covarge then a lady hit the passanger side.I ended up buying my car for 3500.RIPed off!!

Mario portillo

Well I moved from Ca. to Nv. and I received a similar letter and later I found out that states sells your information to marketing companies.
And yes this company is a scam.
Michele Allec,You are right infinity insurance is a rip off,the worst experience with them

JEAN MACCHIAVELLI

THANKS FOR THIS GREAT INFORMATION...BLESS THE COMPUTERS AND THE WORLD WIDE WEB!!! IT SAVES THIS 82 YEAR OLD A LOT OF TIME.

JMACC

Ricardo

Hi, to everyone. I just got a letter exactly like that one, except with the name Protection Direct, soonest I saw it I new it was bogus, it didn't have a email or a website plus I got to call then, they answer in a disrespectful way and I said to that person that this was bogus and then I hang up.

Z.Williams

Thnxs soooo much for this post I got the exact letter, it would have been more effective if they didn't have rude reps I had to almost go off on him for being extremely rude and rushing me to get info!! Thankful that I don't rush into things anymore I researched while on the phone!! Although I am calling back to speak to a SUP about the ignorant rep I got...sad, sad.

Mya

I just received a call saying I had not responded to a letter I had received about my warranty running out. If I would verify my address, they... I interrupted and asked, "Who are you? What company is this?" I was told Direct Auto Protection, "now what is the mileage on your car?" I asked how much are we talking about? "I'll transfer you to another agent to answer all those questions after you tell me the mileage on your car, do you know your mileage?" I told him he may as well go ahead and transfer me to that other agent. A very "chipper" and fast-talking woman came on the phone, calling me by my first name, describing herself as from the business office and my down payment would be $300 and that would cover bumper-to-bumper, engine, everything, etc. I interrupted and said, "I'm not interested", at which point the connection went dead from their end. I immediately go to the web to look up Direct Auto Protection, but only find Protection Direct or Auto Protection Direct or similar - obviously this is the same company, they've just juggled around the words in their name...

Naomi

I called them and talked to someone, and I told him I couldn't make a decision without talking to my husband first and he got pushy and I told him no- and he hung up the phone.

Carolyn PEtersen

Thank you so much for your time in doing this letter. It was so helpful and answered many questions as I have been receiving these letters for some time even on a vehicle that was totaled and sure long gone to the shredder. That was my clue this company was not good.

L.G

Oh wow i am so glad you posted this. The offer sounded pretty good but when i asked to get info in the mail the rep insisted that i would have to give notice now, then i said let me think on this he again insisted i can't give up this offer that i have to do it now. While he was talking to me i decided to look up the company. When i told him so far there is no good news on this company he rush to get off the phone with me..OMG this made me laugh. Thank you so much for the posting of this company!

RAHEEM  AZEEZ

I JUST RECIVED A LETTER FRON THIS PEOPLE BUT AM GET SCARED OF DEALING WITH THEM BECOUSE THERE IS ALOT OF COMPLAIN AM READING ON THIS PAGE NO SINGLE PERSON SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT THEM.

Johnny Jirau

I have worked in this industry for a number of years now. The only legitimate marketing for these plans is through YOU going to a website and opting in. All the mailers and cold calling just adds to their pricing. They have to pay for data. You can read how not to get scammed at http://nationalvehicleservice.com/how-to-avoid-auto-warranty-scams.php.
I am willing to answer anyone's questions about coverage or anything within this industry.

Jim Austin

Thought I would mention that they (successfully) targeted my elderly mother, who has Parkinson's Disease. After they talked her into giving them money (through sheer harassment and persistence), she was guilt-ridden. Basically, she was the classic vulnerable older person; she obviously knew she shouldn't do it but just couldn't hold up to the pressure. In the end, she got the credit card company to cancel the transaction. So in the end she wasn't out any money--but they caused her a great deal of anguish.

ERNEST

crooks,bunch of liers ,do not do trust THEM!

dodge cummins performance parts

the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration began regulating service contract providers and administrators in 2008,

Marketing list

I hadn't heard of SPD before, and the way the company listed its name in the letter seemed odd.

George

Readers:

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration is available online here:
http://difp.mo.gov/

The annual report of complaints for 2011 is available at:
http://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/complaints/compindx.php

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

erika

Not only was this blog super helpful, but the signature on this article is signed "G. Garesh"...mine is signed "G. Resh"....but the handwriting looks like "G. Garesh"...so odd. Glad I read this.

Rejected by Warranty Direct

This might not be relevant but I am getting this out to as many Car Warrantly blogs, chats etc. I purchases Warranty Direct car warranty for my 98 Sebring. After reading the limitations and exclusions very carefully I decided this could be of value. My power windows stopped working. Power Window Motor is covered. Here's the catch all the switches and casings that must be removed to get to the motor....not covered. Obviously, the cost of the switches and casings make it so that one wouldn't want to have the motor fixed. Even when you think you are informed these warranty companies have you beat. Steer clear.

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