FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – When most of us buy a car or truck, we take out a loan and pay it off.
Dan Collum of Arlington paid for his 2003 Ford Taurus in February of last year. He expected the company owning the loan, Santander Consumer USA, to send him the title immediately. But it didn’t happen. So after five months of waiting, he called Santander to complain.
Collum says, “I was told, oh, that shouldn’t be a problem getting you a new one even though we show we sent you a new one in February.” Sorry you did not receive it, we will send you a new one. We will report this to the titles department, and they will send you a new one soon.
But his car’s title still hasn’t arrived from Santander, a Dallas-based company that creates and manages auto loans. So, in December of last year, Collum said, “I called back, ‘Well, I’m sorry sir, this happened to you, we’ll send you another one, no problem. ” Nothing.”
It wasn’t until last May that Collum said Santander sent him a lien waiver, stating that he had paid off his loan. He says it happened over a year after he paid for his car.
State law requires that liens be released no later than ten days after payment. A spokeswoman for Santander said the release of the lien was part of the title he initially sent Collum a week after paying off his loan.
Still, for Collum, “It was really frustrating.”
Rebecca Paddock says she knows exactly what Collum is going through. When she repaid her car loan, it was owned by another company, Citifinancial. But she says she had to go through Santander because she was told she had taken over her account.
Paddock said: “I tried to get with Santander to publish the title, but they refused to respond.”
Paddock called. She sent an email. And she says she never got out of it. “It lasted a year.” Paddock says that when she hired a lawyer, who threatened to sue, she eventually received her title.
But a Santander spokesperson told us that in fact Paddock had never been their client – she has always been a Citifinancial client. Santander says it was Citifinancial who sent Paddock the release of the privilege and the title.
Paddock says, “He got a phone call the day he got there, saying the title was on its way. I was happy to have obtained the title. But it was very frustrating going through the bureaucracy and having to hire a lawyer. “
Paddock and Collum have filed complaints against Santander with the Better Business Bureau in Dallas. They are not the only ones. Jeannette Kopko of the Better Business Bureau for the Greater Dallas Area said, “We get complaints here at the Dallas Better Business Bureau from customers across the country. “
This is because Santander Consumer USA is based here in Dallas. And the number of complaints filed with the Dallas Better Business Bureau against the company is staggering: around 4,000, in the past three years alone. Almost 700 of them this year alone.
Kopko says, “That’s a lot of complaints for a company during this time. It was one of the companies with the most complaints to the Dallas Better Business Bureau in 2010. In 2011, it was the company with the most complaints to the Dallas BBB, and so far in 2012, it is the third most complaining company.
We have just learned that the Texas Attorney General’s Office is investigating the business practices of Santander Consumer USA.
In January, the state launched this letter “Request for Civil Investigation”. He’s asking Santander to produce any documentation showing how it collects overdue auto loans and responds to consumer complaints.
The state is currently reviewing Santander’s responses.
We asked for an on-camera interview with Santander. The company declined, but emailed us a statement saying customer satisfaction is its top priority and that it complies with all applicable consumer loan and collection laws.
As for Dan Collum, he says he still has a bitter taste in his mouth against Santander. He still wants his title. Santander says this gave Collum the opportunity to secure his title on one of their online sites.
Collum says he hasn’t done it yet. “It’s frustrating. I’ve waited a year and a half, and all I have is to go do it yourself. Go do our job for us.
Over the past year, the Better Business Bureau has given Santander D + ratings, and even an F. Santander has reported responding to all complaints filed with the BBB. The company’s rating has now changed to A-.