Tesla double-charged some customers for new cars

Christopher Lee and his 2021 Tesla Model Y.

Christopher T. Lee

Last week, after Southern California residents Tom Slattery, Christopher T. Lee and Clark Peterson paid for brand new Tesla electric cars, they told CNBC they were thrilled the company charged them twice and tens of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts charged without approval or warning, then give them a frustrating workaround when requesting refunds.

CNBC reviewed records, including automobile sales contracts, correspondence with Tesla, and bank statements to confirm their stories.

Two other customers, whose identities are known to CNBC but who chose to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, said they had also received double debit fees from Tesla, which put them in trouble. One of them is faced with overdraft fees and impending financing fees for credit card bills due at the end of the month.

The cost of a new Tesla is not trivial. For affected buyers surveyed by CNBC, amounts withdrawn from their accounts ranged from $ 37,000, the price of a 2021 Tesla Model 3 sedan, to $ 71,000, the price of a 2021 Tesla Model Y crossover SUV with premium options .

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment for more information. CNBC asked the company how many customers were affected by the double fees, how such issues could affect quarter-end shipments (expected to be reported in early April), how quickly the company can refund owners, and which customers should do so during this period Situation do.

Dave Excell, founder of a financial crime prevention technology company called Featurespace, said double fees are a common problem in e-commerce and banking in general.

Without specifically addressing Tesla’s problems, he said that platforms that process ACH transactions can use what is known as deduplication features to prevent duplicate charges from occurring in error. At the same time, the systems they use must be flexible enough to allow for duplicate transactions that should be carried out – like a regular salary or a grandparent sending $ 50 to each of their grandchildren on the same day.

For consumers who see money withdrawn from accounts twice after ordering only once, Excell said, “The best thing is to come back to the merchant and let them know that an error has occurred. Ask them to cancel or refund the money. That should be the easiest way. ” Contacting a bank to ask them to reverse the transaction might work as well. However, this can take longer and requires the bank to coordinate with the merchants.

Here’s what happened to Tesla vehicle buyers.

rude awakening

Tesla Model 3

Source: Tesla

On March 24, the Slatterys were thrilled after a message from Tesla said the car they ordered in January could be delivered to their home using the company’s “contactless” delivery service in one to three days.

Tesla would drop the car in their apartment and Slattery could use the Tesla app as a digital key to access it for the first time. This was a slightly different process than the one he experienced buying a Model 3 from Tesla in 2019 – a car he says he still loves to drive after the first flaws were discovered and repaired.

The contactless delivery process is one that Tesla touted as safe and convenient during the Covid pandemic. All Slattery had to do was complete his order by uploading proof of insurance, Model Y driver’s licenses, and finally choosing a payment method.

With customers paying in advance and online, Tesla is now accepting Bitcoin or ACH direct debit payments. For convenience, with no other options, Slattery added his bank account and routing numbers and approved the transfer of funds.

When he checked his bank account the next morning, March 25, Tom Slattery woke up to find that his bank account was almost $ 53,000 more than expected – the amount he was willing to pay for a long-range four-wheel drive was. 2021 Tesla Model Y. It would be a second Tesla for his family.

Slattery says he spotted the duplicate immediately and jumped over to call Tesla and text him. He spent the day getting stonewalled. People either didn’t pick up the phone or had no definitive answers on a refund.

Slattery eventually drove to the Tesla Burbank, Calif., Retail and service center to speak to sales and delivery staff in person.

He says, “They told me to call my bank and have my bank cancel the fee. That was unacceptable. If you charge more than $ 50,000 and tell a customer to fix it themselves? I keep the pressure.” made.”

Five days later, Slattery is still waiting for a refund or a written commitment that it will be refunded by what date.

He will refuse to accept delivery of the new Model Y 2021, which was only displayed during the previously estimated delivery window after the refund was complete.

The stress comes at a terrible time for his family – they are looking for a new home in another state, and problems with funds could affect their ability to bid on a home or get a mortgage on time and at a desirable price, or evaluate.

Not the only ones

Slattery is hardly alone. He said a Tesla employee at the Burbank Store and Service Center said in front of him that hundreds of customers had the same double charge problem.

While he’s still on board with electric cars and has no plans to give up Tesla, Slattery says, “It’s hard to imagine sales and service getting worse. I had nearly $ 53,000 unauthorized stolen from my bank account. And.” nobody, nobody called me, emailed me, there is no sense of urgency to resolve this. ”

In the meantime, his bank told him it could take at least 10 days and possibly up to 45 days for a refund to end up being processed. And it would be faster to do things through Tesla.

Another Greater Los Angeles resident Clark Peterson told CNBC a similar story.

He was looking forward to finally accepting delivery of a Tesla Model Y, a car his family had wanted since the three-row version was teased last year, but which they couldn’t order from Tesla until January 2021.

After missing its originally estimated delivery windows in February, Tesla said last week that the Model Y 2021 could be dropped off at Peterson’s home via a contactless service program within one to three days. Tesla asked him to complete his payment, and he uploaded proof of insurance, driver’s licenses, and bank details for the direct debit on March 24.

On March 25, Tesla called and left a voicemail saying he wanted to go through the delivery schedule with Peterson. When they finally connected by phone, the delivery man said his vehicle could arrive between 9:00 a.m. and midnight on March 26, and mentioned in passing that Peterson’s account had been charged twice.

“He told me to call the bank and stop paying for it,” Peterson said. “I said the money left my account. I’m pretty familiar with how wire transfers work. When the money is gone, the money is gone! He insisted I call my bank. So I did. They confirmed.” like no, the money is now on Tesla’s report. We can’t do anything about it until we hear from them. “

Peterson says he loves owning a high-tech car that doesn’t use gasoline, is fast, and quiet. His children are excited about the idea of ​​having a Tesla. But he wonders why it was possible to pay $ 71,000 for a luxury vehicle in minutes but not be reimbursed the same day for a massive, faulty fee.

A customer service rep at his bank told him he wasn’t the only one who called to resolve this issue.

On social media, where Peterson searched for more information and sparked his frustration, someone asked if he just hit the buy button twice.

“This was not an operator error,” said Peterson. “And for a company with so many technological capabilities, it really raises questions when this happens to multiple people.”

Peterson was told by a customer service representative who called over the weekend that Tesla would issue him a refund within one to three business days. He asked her to send the details by email or text. A written record never arrived.

As of Monday afternoon, he was still waiting for his refund or written notice of it.

Live blogging of his Tesla problems

The new Tesla Model Y is presented. Tesla has expanded its model range to include an SUV based on the current Model 3.

Hannes Breustedt | Image Alliance | Getty Images

Another new Tesla customer, Christopher T. Lee, says the Model Y was his dream car, but he and his girlfriend have resorted to food from “broken college kids” while waiting for a refund.

Lee also produced a video sharing his troubles as a Tesla owner. While working in a different field, Lee is known as “Everyday Chris” on YouTube. He’s been making technical reviews and consumer instruction videos on his channel for about a year. He is now planning a series on Tesla adventures and possessions.

In a March 27 episode entitled “Did I just let TESLA cheat me ???!” Lee begins by saying, “Hey, it’s Chris! And I love Tesla, but in today’s video, I’m going to talk about how Tesla betrayed me.”

He shares how he saved for his “dream car,” the 2021 Tesla Model Y, and paid for the car with ACH using his route and verification information. Then he talks about feeling the “bad dream” when he saw that his bank account ran out the next day.

“I was only supposed to pay $ 56,578.63 for my Model 3. … You ended up charging me twice for the car.”

Unlike Slattery and Peterson, Tesla told Lee that there was no record of having been charged twice. Tesla kept telling him to call his bank even though he was paying through ACH, where money was instantly withdrawn.

The service center near him was finally able to send him an email address to someone in the finance department in Tesla’s Fremont, California office. He’s still waiting for double the fee to be refunded.

Lee told CNBC that he hopes his video can help other Tesla buyers avoid similar problems, or at least resolve them faster together. If he had to do it all over again, Lee says, he might have used a cashier’s check and paid in person instead of online.

Here is the full video:

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