How can I avoid being taken advantage of when I bring my car in to be fixed?

Question: 
How can I avoid being taken advantage of when I bring my car in to be fixed?
Answer: 

While most garages may be trustworthy, many people have understandable worries about being overcharged, getting shoddy work, or having unnecessary repairs done. There are special rules in Ontario's Consumer Protection Act that people should know about when they take their car in for repairs.

Where the rules apply

These rules apply to anyone who is paid to do work on a motor vehicle in Ontario.

"Motor vehicle" includes cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and motor-assisted bicycles, but not snowmobiles or farm tractors.

The rules apply to garages, dealerships, and specialized shops such as lube, brake, muffler, and body shops -  any place that works on or repairs motor vehicles.

Estimates

Before starting any work, the repair shop must offer to provide a detailed estimate. The customer can decide not to get an estimate, but only if they and the shop agree on a maximum amount that the shop can charge.

The shop can't charge the customer anything unless there is an estimate or an agreement for a maximum amount. And the shop can't do any work that the customer didn't authorize.

Replacement parts

The shop must give the customer any parts that were replaced, unless the customer agreed in advance that they didn't need to.

Signs

Repair shops must post signs that:

  • list customers' rights under the Consumer Protection Act
  • explain how the shop calculates charges
  • say if anyone at the shop is paid on commission

The bill

When the work is done, the shop must give the customer a detailed bill with an exact description of the work done, including a list of any parts they installed and whether the parts are new, used, or reconditioned.

The bill must show the price of each part, the total charge for labour and how it's calculated, and a list of any other charges.

The total charged can't be more than the maximum that the customer and the shop agreed to, or 10% over the estimated amount if there was an estimate.
 

Warranties

The law says that all the work done must be of a "reasonably acceptable quality".

Repair shops must also give a warranty of at least 90 days or 5,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.

This warranty must cover all new and reconditioned parts and the labour to replace them. It doesn't have to cover fluids, lights, tires, batteries, or any parts that weren't covered by the manufacturer's warranty when the vehicle was new.
 

What to do if there's a problem

A customer who isn't happy with the repairs or the quality of the work should first ask the shop to correct the problem.

If the shop won't do that, getting a written report from a different repair shop saying that the job wasn't done properly might help convince them.

If the problem isn't resolved, or if the repair shop isn't following the rules in the Consumer Protection Act, the customer can complain to the Ministry of Consumer Services.

The Ministry's website has contact information as well as a downloadable complaint form.
 

What not to do if there's a problem

An unsatisfied customer may be tempted to just refuse to pay the bill. But that's usually not a good idea.

If the shop followed the rules about estimates and got the customer's authorization to do the work, they can keep the vehicle if the bill isn't paid. After 60 days, they can even sell the vehicle.

For safer options, see CLEO's Motor vehicle repairs.
 

This answer is taken from CLEO's  On the Radar - March 2014

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