It happens sooner or later to all of us – Your car needs to be serviced, and you must visit an auto repair shop. Knowing the names of a few reliable auto repair shops in and around your neighbourhood is good, but sometimes, you may have to visit an unknown repair shop.
Repairing or restoring a vehicle can be an exasperating experience, especially when you are not very sure about the services or repair shop. And if you are getting your car repaired after a collision, it is all the more tiring.
What Does the Law Say?
It helps to know your rights in such a situation and what you can demand rightfully. Ontario and other provinces have a detailed list of rights that the vehicle owner can insist upon.
In Ontario, your consumer rights are covered under the Consumer Protection Act when you take a vehicle in for repairs. The law applies to cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and motor-assisted bicycles, and anyone who works on or repairs a car for a fee must obey this law.
Let’s learn a bit more about your rights when you take your vehicle in for repairs and what to do if you have a dispute with a repair shop.
A Written Estimate of Repairs
The first thing that any reputable car repair shop should give you is a detailed written estimate of the work.
North York Auto in Toronto, Ontario provides an in-depth, comprehensive estimate prior to beginning a job and promises outstanding workmanship and service by keeping you informed and up to date throughout the process.
Apart from your name and contact details, the estimate must include:
- name, address and contact details of the repair shop
- make, model, vehicle identification number (VIN) and licence number of the vehicle
- an exact description of the repairs to be made
- Installation of any parts and if those parts will be new, used or reconditioned
- if they will be using parts provided by the original equipment manufacturer
- price of each part
- total cost for the labour and how it will be calculated (e.g., an hourly rate or a flat rate, or some combination)
- total amount to be billed (the final cost can’t exceed this amount by more than 10%)
- date the estimate is given and the validity
- date by when the work and repairs will be completed
A Few Points to Remember
You may be asked to pay for the estimate, but the cost should be communicated to you in advance. By law, this price includes the costs of examining the vehicle, reassembling the vehicle after examination and replacing any parts damaged during inspection or reassembly.
If there is a delay in authorizing the repair after disassembly, the repair shop may charge you a fee.
The repair shop should have a written record of your permission to start the work.
Never sign a blank work order, as this allows the shop to make any repairs they think are necessary for your vehicle. Even if you disagree with them, you will be charged for the work.
Unless you explicitly refuse, the garage must offer to return the old, replaced parts.
The final invoice for the repair must include all the information per the estimate, including the total cost. The final price cannot be more than 10% above the estimate.
If you decline a written estimate, you can agree on a maximum amount for the repair. In such cases, the repair shop cannot charge more than the amount you consented to.
Warranties on the Spares and Labour
The invoice must mention the terms of the warranty provided by the repair shop for each part installed and the labour to install it.
If your vehicle breaks down or is unsafe to drive, you are entitled to take it back for repair or the costs of getting it done elsewhere.
Repair Shop Signs
Repair shops must display the following:
- Whether a written estimate is available and, if yes, the cost for providing one.
- That replaced parts will be returned to you if you want them
- Method of calculating labour costs
- Whether commissions are paid to mechanics
What Do You if There is a Dispute?
Now that you know your rights let us discuss what you can do if there is a dispute.
It would be best if you write your complaint to the repair shop. If they do not respond satisfactorily, you can get a second assessment from another shop to strengthen your complaint. If the complaint is still unresolved, you can:
- take the issue to Small Claims Court, or
- file a complaint with the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery.
The auto repair shop can retain your vehicle if you refuse to pay the final invoice or the agreed maximum amount. They can sell or donate it after giving you due notice.
The auto repair industry can be a little murky to navigate.
However, you will be better equipped to handle any hiccups if you do a little homework about reliable auto repair shops. Please make a list of the mechanics that you can trust and employ their services.
Be aware of your rights and ensure that the car body shop respects them too.