What’s up with all these phone calls about extending my vehicle warranty? I’m on the Federal Do Not Call list, and they still call.


Q. What’s up with all these phone calls about extending my vehicle warranty? I’m on the Federal Do Not Call list, and they still call. I bet I’ve gotten more than a 100 calls in the last 15 months. Are these warranties worth anything?

A. Vehicles are wonderful — when they work. When if they break down, they are instantly transformed into hunks of complete and utter annoyance. So buying an extended warranty sounds peachy. But this is one of those situations the term “buyer beware” was coined for.

First off, these “extended warranties” are actually service contracts, not warranties as defined by federal law. A warranty is something that comes with a new car and is included in the original price.

Before you purchase a contract, the Federal Trade Commission recommends asking yourself the following four questions: Does the service contract duplicate any warranty coverage? Who backs the service contract? How much does this auto service contract cost (including up-front costs and deductibles)? What is covered and not covered? How are claims handled? Are new or reconditioned parts authorized for use in covered repairs?

And another useful question: Will any dealer around here even honor the silly thing? Jonathan Wiest, car manager at Conklin Cars in Newton, said in some cases, the answer could be no. He said with some contract companies, the dealer won’t accept them because the dealer knows the company likely won’t honor the claims. And the companies can be sneaky. He said with one company in particular that has been contacting a Newton resident, he can’t even figure out the name of the company.

“They are very pushy,” he said. “They make people so frustrated, they finally say yes.”

Wiest recommended contacting your local dealer (where you would likely get repairs) to see if they would accept the service contract before handing over your credit card number. Also, Wiest said if you can get a call back number, it’s probably more legitimate than one where the mantra is the worn-out “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Wiest said there are companies available coast to coast on any brand (within mileage and year parameters) that are backed by automakers. In other words, there are legitimate companies out there if you want the “peace of mind” promised by the telemarketers.

Now, as for the persistent phone calls, here are a few related (and hopefully useful) tidbits:

• Federal regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automatic dialers to call cell phone numbers. Since most telemarketers use automatic dialers, in general, this prohibits telemarketers from calling cell phones.

• If you ask a company on the phone to put you on the company’s do not call list, regardless of whether you are on the federal list, the company has to leave you alone.

• Calling times for telemarketers are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If they’re interrupting your midnight snack, they’re breaking the rules.

• You can get on the Federal No Call List by calling (888) 382-1222 ((866) 290-4236 for TTY) or log on to www.donotcall.gov. If you’re calling, call from the number you want registered. Online opting out requires e-mail confirmation. The telemarketers have 31 days to get rid of your name or face a fine of up to $11,000 per call.

• If you’re getting calls that violate federal rules, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov). They can fine companies, sue companies and twist their arm until they cry “uncle.”

I, however, am not on the Do Not Call List. Call with your questions, or e-mail, or whatever is easiest. And enjoy a weekend of barbecues, fishing, lounging or whatever un--laborious activity you can fill up Labor Day Weekend with.

Toodles.