Jim Butler Chevrolet in suburban St. Louis is suing a customer who took issue with the repair bill for his Chevrolet Malibu, and is seeking $25,000 in damages.
Dwayne Cooney took his vehicle to the dealership for service after hours on Jan. 31 because the key fob wouldn’t work, the tire pressure monitor light remained on and an airbag warning light had illuminated.
Those are some of the few facts on which both parties agree. After that, the dispute quickly turns into a “he said, he said” argument before the court.
The dispute has boiled over into questions of defamation vs. free speech on the Internet, and how far a dealership has to go in today’s online world to placate a disgruntled customer.
The dealership told Cooney, also of suburban St. Louis, that General Motors had notified it of a possible fault in the wiring and that repairs to his Malibu could be lengthy.
According to Cooney, he approved a maximum of four hours of work on the car. The dealership says that he acknowledged the complexity of the work to be done.
According to the dealership, Cooney was informed that his car would be looked at on Monday, Feb. 3, and was offered a rental car, which he took.
When the dealership called him back and told him the repair took more than the maximum four hours, Cooney took issue.
The dealership says it gave Cooney a good deal, charging for 4.5 hours of labor, when the job took more than five, reducing his bill to $553 from $674 after negotiation.
But the dealership didn’t realize that Cooney had a camera attached to his dashboard, which was recording work done on the car. Cooney later posted a 17-minute video taken by the camera, accompanied by his after-the-fact narration, on YouTube. He says the video proves the work took just an hour and a half.
Jim Butler Chevrolet disputes the video and denies any overcharging, saying that the video has been edited and does not show the true amount of time the vehicle spent being diagnosed and then serviced.
The camera in Cooney’s car records on a loop and tapes over older recordings, erasing them.
“The video shows only one afternoon of our tech working on his vehicle,” Brad Sowers, co-owner of Jim Butler Chevrolet, told Automotive News. “He neglected to show any of the work done in the previous two days.”