EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 4, 2013

Used-car dealer called in to discuss complaints

License officials review customer gripes tonight, consider discipline

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Another customer has accused local used-car dealer Robert Kalil of refusing to honor a sales agreement, and the License Commission has asked Kalil to attend its meeting tonight to discuss that and another complaint.

Commission Chairman Joseph Edwards said that after discussing the complaints with Kalil, the commission will decide whether to consider disciplinary action against him.

Randy and Tammy Duquette said they purchased a 2005 Dodge Ram truck from Kalil’s 495 Auto and Truck dealership earlier this year and at the time of sale were given an “IOU” for a replacement chrome rim and four new tires. The deal also included a promise that certain repairs would be made before the Duquettes took delivery of the vehicle, they said.

But in an email to the commission, Randy Duquette said Kalil replaced the tires with other used ones, including the truck’s spare tire. The email said Kalil also failed to replace the rim and make promised repairs to a sun visor and rotted running board. After the Duquettes took delivery of the truck, they said Kalil avoided their phone calls and emails as they sought to resolve the matter.

Kalil’s dealership at 1175 Main St. was formerly known as Fenway Auto Park. The Duquette complaint follows a complaint from Stefan DiGregorio of Wakefield. DiGregorio filed a police report last month and complained to several consumer agencies after he said Kalil threatened to have him fired from his job at a local ambulance company during their dispute over a used-car purchase.

Kalil did not respond to calls from The Eagle-Tribune, but he provided his side of both disputes in a letter to the commission. In it, he said he tried to resolve both matters.

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.

“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.”

In his letter to the commission, Kalil said he had “nothing but polite and respectful conversations” with DiGregorio. Kalil said he was unable to repair DiGregorio’s vehicle because DiGregorio broke three appointments with him to have it fixed.

“I was in total shock when finding out he wrote that nasty derogatory report about me,” Kalil said of DiGregorio. “I have not had one fair opportunity to resolve any issues with this car. ...The law reads that I am entitled to three separate opportunities to fix any defects.”

Kalil provided a similar explanation for his dispute with the Duquettes — that they ignored his phone calls and failed to bring their truck back to Kalil’s shop for repairs.

“It is very hard to schedule service without a phone call, without a one-on-one conversation,” Kalil wrote in his letter to the commission. “He (Randy Duquette) mentioned that driving here to resolve any service matters is not an option. It’s not very fair to us here at 495 Auto & Truck when customers don’t give us a fair opportunity to handle service issues.”

But in a March 29 email from Tammy Duquette to Kalil that was copied to the License Commission, she said she was available to discuss the dispute and provided her office and cell phone numbers and her email address.

“Due to the lack of response from 495 Auto, considering these issues have been outstanding for nearly nine months, we’d like to request the amount of $297.98 be sent directly to us to fulfill the IOU within 30 days of this email,” Tammy Duquette wrote. “We no longer can wait to replace the rim and driving without the visor is very difficult, yet alone very dangerous with solar glare.”

In his rebuttal letter to the commission, Kalil said he resolved the dispute with the Duquettes by sending them a check in the amount requested. Kalil also noted that in one of the Randy Duquette’s emails, Duquette said he had “a good shopping experience and recommended (Kalil’s) dealership to others.”

Kalil has also been cited for failing to respond to the complaints within the required 10-day period. His rebuttal letter to the commission arrived after the 10-day response period ended, according to paperwork in the case.

In June 2011, the License Commission warned 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. In 2009, the car dealership was cited by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for violating the Lemon Law.

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 his recent letter to the commission, Kalil said the “adjustments to the company” made in 2011 have worked great and that the dealership has sold more than 500 vehicles since the last time he was in front of the commission.

“Maintaining a happy, healthy, respectful environment is most important to me and my company,” Kalil wrote. “...I go above and beyond to keep a happy customer. I find myself servicing vehicles free of charge even after the warranty period is over, just to keep a happy customer. It is worth the effort.”