May 24, 2022

Alice-in-chains

Automotive forever

Customers complain online car dealer Vroom moving too slow

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With a name like ‘Vroom’ the word “fast” may come to mind.

However, customers of the online car dealer who turned to WREG say the experience has been anything but.

In fact, the News Channel 3 Investigators uncovered thousands of complaints against the company, including customers who say they’re paying for cars they still technically don’t own.

Customers Forced to Wait

Billy Smith says his family’s RV is large enough to sleep eight, has a kitchen with a refrigerator and space for eating, as well as a bathroom with a shower. Smith said it has all the comforts of home, which is perfect for their family pastime of enjoying the outdoors. 

“My family and I, we like to go on trips. We’ve gone to places like down by the Gulf and down Florida. We’ve gone to Talladega for the races and several things like that. We really enjoy going out with the RV and going camping,” Smith said.

Smith upgraded from a pop-up camper to his current RV two years ago.

“I started getting older and the girls started getting older, we needed more room and I wanted something a little bigger.” 

Smith says he also needed a bigger truck to pull the RV, so he bought an F-150 pickup in September of 2021.

Smith purchased his pickup from the online car dealer Vroom

It’s a site where customers complete the entire car buying process online and the vehicle can be delivered directly to their doorstep. The company even offers financing.

The Vroom website reads, “Buy your next ride entirely online.”

Smith said the purchasing process ran smoothly and he likes his truck. But there’s one big problem.

Smith isn’t driving his new truck. It’s parked.

“I took possession of it on September the 27th of 2021 and I have, to this date still haven’t, had been able to get the vehicle registered,” Smith said.

He says he’s been waiting on Vroom to send the proper paperwork so he can register his truck and get a tag. 

The company issued him four temporary tags and told him they can’t send another one. 

“I still got the last one on the vehicle and you can see it expired on February 13th,” explained Smith as he showed WREG the now expired temp tag. 

Billy Smith speaks with the NewsChannel 3 Investigators.
Photo of Smith’s temporary tag which expired in February.

Smith said he’s made seven months of truck payments, and has gotten four temporary tags, but zero answers from Vroom about the delay and when they’ll make it right.

“The response from them is when you call them, which is the only way you can get to them, they have a system set up where you talk to somebody who is obviously looking at a computer screen and all they can tell you is what they see on the screen. They can or will not give you a name or phone number to anybody else higher up who can deal with your issue,” Smith explained.

He says the entire experience has left him frustrated and a little angry.

“I have seriously have spoken, at least I know more than 50 times. I’ve made phone calls here. At least 50 times. And of all of that, I’ve gotten maybe three emails saying that they’ve got this case number. It will be reviewed and that’s the last of it.”

Smith is far from alone in his complaints about Vroom.

Matthew Vanderbloemen is a different customer with the same story.

Matthew Vanderbloemen speaks with WREG.

“You sit on hold for 30 minutes and you find out that the person that you end up getting 30 minutes in has no idea what you’re talking about,” said Vanderbloemen.

Vanderbloemen bought an Acura from Vroom in September. He relocated from Washington D.C. to Memphis where he now needed a car.

Vanderbloemen told WREG, “It was really when the first temporary tag expired at the end of November that I started to notice that there were going to be some issues. I started to wonder, do they really, are they really paying attention? Do they really know what’s going on? Are they really handling this the way that they should?”

Vanderbloemen says by January he reached out to his lender and they hadn’t received a title from Vroom.  He showed the News Channel 3 Investigators emails to and from Vroom. 

He says the company would repeatedly ask for documentation he’d already provided, or that wasn’t even required, such as an emissions test in Tennessee. He says Vroom told him they were going to close his case due to missing documentation.

Vanderbloemen shows Zaneta Lowe emails to and from Vroom.

“They say, hey, we need further information from you. This is on December 10th. They say we need an emissions test and proof of insurance. I had given them that proof of insurance, on a full month prior to that. It tells me they’re not connecting the dots, telling me they don’t know what’s going on, that they’re poorly managed,” said Vanderbloemen.

Vroom has corporate headquarters in New York. The company has operations and a presence near Houston, Texas and is a licensed dealer in the state. The temporary tags issued to Vanderbloemen and Smith were from Texas.

In federal filings, the CEO of the publicly traded company touted record sales and revenue. The company said it had sold 74,698 ecommerce units, which was up 117% year over year. Vroom called its ecommerce segment the “largest segment in our business” in SEC filings and said revenue for that segment grew 166.8% from 2020 to 2021.

Mounting Complaints

There have been more than 5,000 complaints filed about Vroom with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas over the past three years.

The BBB revoked Vroom’s accreditation and the company has an “F” rating. 

Dan Parsons is the president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston. He said it was “unprecedented” to have that type of growth in complaints that quickly.

“There’s a funnel and the funnel is our inbound complaint activity. Vroom just greatly exceeded the funnel. I mean, it spilled all over the sides of it.”

Complaints range from customers getting damaged cars to unauthorized contract add-ons, and title and registration delays. 

Parsons told WREG, “Usually complaints pigeonhole into one or two areas. These are in many areas. Most of it does circulate around not getting titles and registration or not getting the vehicle. And then the subset begins. Then you get into other things like, well, they never submitted the title and we caught them in a lie saying so, or they’re blaming on a DMV office that’s perfectly open and operating. Or then you can flip over to the car side and say, well, the car that was advertised looks beautiful. And the one I got, it’s a piece of junk.”

Parsons says complaints similar to the stories Smith and Vanderbloemen shared with WREG also surround Vroom’s customer service.

“You can’t reach a manager. We have no supervisors. We will escalate your, we will take this to a tier higher. It’s all babble speak to make you go away,” exclaimed Parsons.

The NewsChannel 3 Investigators asked Parsons, “How have they responded to the complaints?”

Parsons replied, “Generally, not. Generally they don’t.” According to the BBB of Greater Houston, Vroom has failed to respond to nearly 2,000 complaints that are now closed.

Complaints haven’t stopped at the Better Business Bureau. 

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles says it has received 1,688 complaints against Vroom in the past 12 months.

A spokesperson told the NewsChannel 3 Investigators, “We cannot discuss the details of open cases, but I can confirm there is an active investigation involving Vroom.”

A review of closed cases filed against Vroom with the Texas DMV includes a number allegations such as the following: 

  • Failed to timely transfer title
  • Selling vehicle without having title 
  • Misuse of buyer e-tag
  • Failure to provide title to out of state customer

“Failed to Timely Transfer Title” was the most cited allegation type of the closed complaints reviewed by the NewsChannel 3 investigators.

The Texas DMV records reveal Vroom has faced six fines totaling $37,500 since 2017. The penalties were associated with complaint investigations, including those settling claims of failing to timely transfer title. 

After speaking with WREG, Smith filed a complaint with the Texas DMV. An investigator wrote in an email, they found “evidence of a violation” in his case.

Smith said, “I would have much rather, had they told me they had problems, they were backed up, shorthanded, whatever the issue was, I would have much rather they told me that at the beginning, straight up been honest with me and told me sorry, but it is going to take six months to get it registered for these various reasons.”

Vroom wouldn’t give WREG a reason for its delays, either. The company declined our interview requests. 

In an emailed statement a spokesperson said:

“We regret any customer not having the positive experience Vroom strives to deliver. We are aware some customers are experiencing delays in receiving their titles and registrations. We are actively working with Mr. Smith and Mr. Vanderbloemen to resolve their issues as quickly as possible so they can fully enjoy the vehicle they purchased from us.”

In our review of closed complaints from the Texas DMV, we found multiple occasions where a Vroom executive claimed titles had been lost. In a 2021 case, a Vroom Compliance VP wrote to the Texas DMV Investigator assigned to the case, “Apparently this is a transaction for which we cannot locate the title and the seller, Tesla, has promised to provide assistance.”

The investigator notes in violation recommendations two days later, “There should be no reason if the title was lost that the RP could not obtain a duplicate title for the vehicle and transfer title unless the previous owner’s signature is needed. It is suspected that the RP sold the vehicle in this case without title in hand but unable to prove that at this time.

“…also believe RP is and has been selling vehicles without title in hand.”

There’s a line in each of the entries for Enforcement History in which investigators typically note a number of cases against a respondent. In this case the investigator wrote, “You know, A lot.” 

Texas Attorney General Sues Vroom

Another agency has accused Vroom of not having the titles at all.

On April 19, 2022, The Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Vroom alleging deceptive trade practices. 

The filing accuses Vroom of “reselling vehicles before they even obtain clear title”. It said Vroom “designed a system that fails to meet the Texas legal requirements for timely transfer of title and registration”. 

The suit, which includes the BBB complaints and data from the Texas DMV cites a complaint from a customer who says they waited a year for a title. It also cites problems for out of state consumers, some who complained of “multiple citations or impounded vehicles while displaying Texas temporary tags”.

The lawsuit calls for an injunction to halt certain practices, civil penalties and restitution. A spokesperson for the Texas AG’s office says the restitution would go directly to consumers.