ATTORNEYS GENERAL ANNOUNCE $51.5 MILLION NATIONAL SETTLEMENT WITH BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, INC.
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that Maryland has joined with 49 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in a $51.5 million settlement with Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. The settlement is the result of numerous consumer protection claims involving alleged misrepresentations regarding Bridgestone/Firestone tires that had high rates of tread separations.
"Today's settlement will provide greater protections for consumers purchasing and using Bridgestone/Firestone tires across the country in the future," Attorney General Curran said.
The states had alleged that Bridgestone/Firestone made misrepresentations to the public in the promotion of the tires, for example by not telling consumers that the tires had a higher risk of failure under the advertised conditions, such as on a fully loaded SUV at the inflation pressure of 26 pounds per square inch. The states also alleged that the company later made misrepresentations to the public during the tire replacement process, for example by not telling U.S. consumers about the company's replacement programs going on abroad.Under the settlement terms, Bridgestone/Firestone has denied wrongdoing.
Of the $51.5 million settlement, an estimated $10 million is devoted to restitution for consumers. This is in addition to approximately $450 million already spent by Bridgestone/Firestone on restitution. Then, $26.5 million will be divided as a monetary payment to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Maryland will receive $525,000. Approximately $10 million is earmarked to pay for the costs of the investigation in the various states. Another $5 million will be devoted to a national public service announcement campaign conducted by the Attorneys General.
Under the settlement, Bridgestone/Firestone agreed to provide detailed safety information to consumers at the time of delivering tires, including information about proper tire maintenance, load capacity, air pressure, proper tire repair, and warranty information. The company agreed that it will not misrepresent the safety or safety characteristics of any tire or tread pattern; misrepresent the characteristics, manufacturer or appropriate uses of a tire; misrepresent the expected life or wear pattern of a tire tread; or provide inconsistent information to consumers about tire pressure. It agreed that it will not make claims concerning tire safety, performance or durability that are not substantiated with reliable scientific evidence.
Bridgestone/Firestone also agreed to handle consumer complaints in a timely manner, and agreed that it would not make misrepresentations during a recall or customer satisfaction program, make misrepresentations in or retroactively change any guarantee or warranty, or misrepresent that it has given an expert all requested information.
The settlement provides for consumer restitution as follows:
• Bridgestone/Firestone will reimburse, or refer to arbitration, certain consumer complaints already forwarded to the Attorneys General Offices.
• Anyone who was denied a refund under Bridgestone/Firestone's Voluntary Safety Tire Recall Reimbursement Program or Customer Satisfaction Program will receive a letter explaining the option to seek a reconsideration of the denial. If there is credible evidence that a consumer meets the requirements of the programs, the consumer will be paid. If Bridgestone/Firestone denies the claim, the consumer will be given the option to submit the claim to arbitration, at no cost.
The tires involved in the settlement included those from three separate Bridgestone/Firestone tire replacement programs: the first recall in August 2000 of all P235/75 R15 Firestone Radial ATX, all P235/75 R15 Firestone Radial ATXII, and P235/75 R15 Firestone Wilderness AT tires manufactured at the company's Decatur, Illinois plant; the Customer Satisfaction Program announced on September 12, 2000 (a list of those tires is on the company's website at www.bridgestone-firestone.com); and a recall on October 4, 2000 of all Firestone Wilderness AT tires in the P235/75R15 and P255/70R16 sizes that were produced before May 1998 and used as original equipment on 1995-1998 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers.