An Edmonton man says he’s happy an auto transport company has finally given him a refund, but is still going public with his complaint in order to warn others.

In November 2013, Dean Neville hired Auto Rail Forwarders to move his family’s two cars from Victoria, B.C. to Edmonton.

'I was flabbergasted. Right then and there I knew I’d been somewhat had.'- Dean Neville

The quote from the Bedford, N.S.-based company appeared reasonable and the contract comprehensive and professional, he said.

“Initially they were great,” Neville said. “Attentive, answering all of our questions, there were no red flags.”

But a month later, a shipment that was supposed to take five to nine days hadn’t even begun.

The family arrived in Edmonton on Dec. 7th, and Neville expected the cars to arrive a day or two later. But when he called Auto Rail he was told weather was delaying their departure.

In the meantime, Neville did something he now wishes he had done right away — check the company’s reputation online.

He was shocked to find a litany of complaints about lengthy service delays and poor reviews by consumer groups and website.

“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “Right then and there I knew I’d been somewhat had. I knew that we’d be in for a lengthy process.”

Company stopped taking calls

After that Auto Rail became far less helpful, Neville said.

“They wouldn’t take our calls. We would email them and maybe a day two later we’d get a response.”

By Jan. 6th, the cars were still sitting at Fraser Wharves, an auto-shipping facility in Richmond, B.C.

Although Auto Rail owner Gerry Giovannetti offered to send a truck to get the cars, Neville decided he’d heard enough promises and decided to use a different company.

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Neville told Fraser Wharves not to release the cars to Auto Rail and arranged for friends to pick them up.

Giovannetti agreed to send Neville a refund, but when it still hadn’t arrived after five weeks, Neville called CBC and then filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

“It was always excuses, you knew we were getting the runaround,” Neville said.

A cheque arrived a few days later, but so did an email from Giovannetti asking Neville not to deposit it until Giovannetti told him there was enough money in the account.

Neville says his bank advised him to deposit it anyway.

It bounced.

Neville said he dedicated the next month to being a thorn in Giovannetti’s side, texting and emailing him, though he said he never expected to see the money.

Company issues refund, defends record

On the same day CBC Go Public asked Giovannetti for an interview, Auto Rail electronically transferred a refund of $1,839 into Neville’s account.

In an email to Go Public, Auto Rail’s accountant Craig Wells blamed Neville for the delay.

“We asked the client to contact us before cashing the cheq (sic),” he wrote.

Wells said once Auto Rail’s bank confirmed the cheque was cancelled, it transferred to the money to Neville’s account.

“Had the client followed our procedure, this delay would not have happened,” Wells wrote.

Giovannetti said he could not move Neville’s cars any faster and the contract stated that estimated delivery times could not be guaranteed. 

“We unfortunately could not provide the service because of the amount of traffic going back and forth,” he said  “Our service providers were just swamped.“

He said his company moves between 750 and 1000 vehicles a year and the number of complaints is less than one per cent of the total.

Another Auto Rail customer, Brittaney Blanchard, said her move from New Brunswick to Calgary at the same time was supposed to take two weeks, but took two-and-a-half months.

“The only explanation he gave me as to why it took so long is because they lost it. They did not know where my car was on the lot,” Blanchard said.

Nova Scotia court documents obtained by CBC show an extensive history of financial problems stretching back more than a decade, for Giovannetti personally, as well as Auto Rail and his many different companies.

'Don’t deal with them,' warns Halifax BBB

Giovannetti and Auto Rail have a long history of complaints, according to Don MacKinnon, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Atlantic Provinces.

“He's been on our radar screen for a number of years,” Mackinnon said.

In the past three years the local BBB office has received more than 50 complaints about Auto Rail and that may only be a small sample of the company’s unhappy customers, MacKinnon said.

“I think it’s one in 19 file a complaint,” Mackinnon said. “The rest lick their wounds or count it as a stupid mistake.”

MacKinnon says the majority of complaints concern lengthy delays, difficulty locating vehicles during shipping and what he calls a consistent level of poor service.

“They're rated F and F means the same thing it did when you and I went to school — don't deal with them,” MacKinnon said.

He said Auto Rail’s reputation is on the BBB’s website for all to see.

Neville said he has no-one to blame but himself, and hopes he's now through with Auto Rail, but wants to warn others.

“I’m not alone in this. When you look at the (reference numbers on the quotes), from the time we got our first quote to the time we got our second quote, there are like 250 other (people’s) quotes in between.

“I don’t know how many of these things are going south on other people … but if in some small way I can stop that it would be great. “



 

With files from Susan Allen and Lisa Mathews