By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The License Commission is reviewing the latest in a series of complaints against a used-car dealership, and is considering punishing the business.
Joseph Edwards, chairman of the commission which regulates used-car dealers in the city, said the commission is aware of a recent customer complaint against the dealership, which has had several names under the same owner. It is now known as Route 495 Auto and Truck of Haverhill.
The commission is looking into the matter and intends to invite dealership owner Robert Kalil to its May meeting “to hear his side of the story,” Edwards said.
“We’ll listen to what he has to say, look at any police reports and anything else that’s available and decide at that meeting if we’re going to bring Mr. Kalil back for a show-cause (discipline) hearing,” Edwards said.
In June 2011, Edwards and other commission members told Kalil they would revoke his license if they received one more complaint against him during the next year. At that meeting, Haverhill police said they have responded to Kalil’s dealership numerous times to investigate disputes between Kalil and his customers.
Police said problems have included failure to return deposits, issues with sale contracts and possible violations of the Lemon Law.
A message left for Kalil with a receptionist at his dealership seeking comment for this story was not returned.
Kalil’s dealership at 1175 Main St. is operating under the name Route 495 Auto and Truck of Haverhill. It was formerly known as Fenway Auto Park.
In 2009, the car dealership was cited by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for violating the Lemon Law.
In that case, a customer said when he purchased his truck at the dealership on upper Main Street in Haverhill, a salesman from the store made him drive across the New Hampshire line to a Plaistow dealership to sign papers for the sale. When that customer later tried to return his truck under the Massachusetts Lemon Law, Kalil told him the law didn’t apply because the vehicle was purchased in New Hampshire, according to the office of consumer affairs. New Hampshire has no lemon laws covering used cars.
The latest complaint against the dealership comes from Stefan DiGregorio of Wakefield. DiGregorio said he has filed a police report and also has contacted the Haverhill License Commission, the Attorney General’s Office, and the state Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation to seek help.
DiGregorio said he bought a 2003 Hyundai Tiburon from Kalil in late January and that within 30 days he began having multiple problems with the vehicle. The most serious included a faulty transmission that would not stay in reverse and an exhaust system that was leaking fumes into the cabin of the sedan, DiGregorio said.
DiGregorio said that after Kalil refused several requests to repair the vehicle under the terms of his 30-day Massachusetts dealer warranty, DiGregorio filed a formal claim for a refund of the purchase price under the Massachusetts Lemon Law. DiGregorio said he followed up his written claim with a phone call to Kalil to give Kalil one last chance to repair the vehicle.
That’s when “things got nasty,” DiGregorio said.
“I was told by Bob (Kalil) that he would repair the vehicle completely if first I wrote a letter stating that all my claims were false,” DiGregorio said. “Then, only after the letter was issued, would he make the repairs.”
When DiGregorio declined that arrangement, he said Kalil threatened to have him fired from his job at a local ambulance company.
“During the phone call and after I said that I would only retract my claims after the car was repaired, Bob became flustered and began to raise his voice,” DiGregorio said. “He stated, ‘I’ll call up your ambulance company and claim that you are a bad EMT and an unsafe driver. I know the people over there.’
“I was shocked by this statement and remained silent,” DiGregorio said. “He followed up and told me ‘I know people in Haverhill. ‘ ... I felt uncomfortable and ended the conversation.”
After that phone call, DiGregorio said he contacted Haverhill police and has since filed a complaint with Wakefield police against Kalil for allegedly threatening him. DiGregorio said he was advised by Haverhill police to file his complaint with his hometown department because that’s where he was during the phone call in which he was allegedly threatened by Kalil.
Kalil’s dealership was placed on probation for one year at the conclusion of the 2011 License Commission meeting. One member, Gerlad Sewell, wanted to revoke Kalil’s license that night, but he was overruled by Edwards and then-commission member Thomas Sullivan.
“We gave you a license to sell cars in Haverhill, and we can just as easily take it away,” Edwards said to Kalil at the 2011 meeting. “You’ve had many consumer complaints, and they can’t all be wrong and you’re right.”
At that time, Kalil said he recently made many policy and personnel changes at his dealership, including firing the store’s manager and hiring a second mechanic, to eliminate problems.
In light of Kalil’s history, DiGregorio said he is “shocked and disappointed” that Haverhill continues to allow Kalil to sell cars.
“I will admit I have damaged credit from when I was younger and was joyed to have someone approve my loan,” DiGregorio said, referring to the loan that Kaili approved that allowed DiGregorio to buy the car he is now trying to return. “But sadly, I quickly realized that it was a predatory car sales dealership and I was trapped in a lemon.’’