A car parts store with three locations in San Luis Obispo County routinely overcharged customers, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office alleged in a new $10 million lawsuit.
The agency alleges Carquest Auto Parts “knowingly and intentionally” overcharged customers on a consistent basis between 2017 and 2023, the lawsuit said.
The overcharging not only violates California law, the lawsuit said, but also violates a 2012 court order prohibiting the company from engaging in the exact same conduct.
As of December, the lawsuit said, Carquest Auto Parts had 330 locations nationwide. Three of those locations are in San Luis Obispo County: Arroyo Grande, Templeton and Paso Robles, according to the company’s website.
Carquest Auto Parts locations failed at least 24 inspections between 2017 and 2023, the lawsuit said. The company overcharged customers by an average of 12% during inspections between 2017 and 2021.
The District Attorney’s Office notified Carquest of the statewide investigation into price accuracy violations in August 2021.
Inspections in 2022 — after the company was notified of the investigation — found the company was overcharging customers by 14%.
That conduct persisted into 2023, the agency said, and even became more “egregious.”
According to inspections of 43 stores in 20 counties in July, the lawsuit said, 91% of stores failed despite the company’s “awareness of the problem.”
“Nearly one in four — or 23% — of the items purchased during these inspections were overcharged compared to the displayed or advertised price.”
Many mispriced items were also mispriced in other California stores, the lawsuit said, indicating a “state-wide systemic concern.”
Auto parts company has history of business violations, lawsuit says
According to the lawsuit, a San Diego Superior Court judge imposed a permanent injunction on Carquest Auto Parts to prohibit the company from charging customers more than the advertised price.
But by 2017 — five years later — the company was found to be engaging in overcharging customers again in several counties, the lawsuit said.
County officials served numerous notices of violations and pending actions, which were also accompanied by thousands of dollars in administrative fines.
But the auto parts company continued to overcharge customers anyway, the lawsuit said.
Los Angeles County has also twice pressed criminal charges against Worldwide Auto Parts, the parent company of Carquest Auto Parts.
Worldwide Auto Parts pleaded no contest to overcharging customers at three separate Carquest stores on July 10, 2019, and again on Oct. 23, 2019.
Despite the several notices of violations and pending actions, two criminal cases and multiple meetings, the lawsuit said, Carquest Auto Parts has increased overcharge rates and inspection failure rates.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office is seeking a $10 million fine against the company for its alleged continuous overcharging of customers. It also seeks a total of $17,000 in additional fines and asks the judge to order the company to repay money to customers who were overcharged.
The Santa Barbara County and San Diego County District Attorney’s Offices have also joined the lawsuit against Carquest Auto Parts.