Consumer Fraud: Protect Yourself From Auto Repair Fraud
One of the most common consumer fraud complaints is that an individual feels they were ripped off by an auto repair shop. Everyone who owns a car understands that you have to perform routine maintenance and make occasional repairs in order to keep your vehicle running. However, visiting the auto-repair shop can be a big blow to the pocket book. While everyone recognizes certain repairs and maintenance need to occur, most people are not car experts and may question the seemingly steep cost of an unexpected reported repair.
To help better the odds that you will keep a well-oiled machine while simultaneously not falling victim to any unscrupulous consumer fraud actions, keep the following items in mind.
Select a Repair Shop Before You Have a Problem
The old saying goes “the best time to patch a roof is while the sun is shining.” The sentiment of the anecdote is that preparing for an eventual misfortune ahead of time saves you a lot of trouble down the line. By selecting a repair shop ahead of time, you will be able to conduct ample research into the shop and read up on their procedures, prices, and any positive or negative feedback the shop is receiving from current customers. Performing this legwork can protect you against making a hasty decision when you are in a panic and need someone – anyone – to fix your car asap.
Selecting a shop early also allows you to research whether the shop is qualified to complete the repair that you need completed. Many car brands sustain specialty repair shops, as those vehicles require specialized repair and generally cannot be properly maintained by an outside repair shop. Other items to look for include mechanic diplomas and/or certifications, and it may be a good idea to research the shop through the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints filed against the establishment.
Understand Consumer Rights under the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act
The Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act requires certain actions from motor vehicle dealers, service stations, shops, etc. Under the act, if the shop has identified repair work for the vehicle that will exceed $100, the shop is required to give the consumer the option of requesting a written estimate, requiring notification if the repair exceeds the amount specified by the consumer, or waiving the need for a written estimate. A repair shop cannot force consumers to waive their right to a pre-work estimate. Then, the shop is required to contact the consumer before they exceed the estimate by either $10 or 10% (whichever amount is greater).
If the repairs are going to be more than you want to pay, you are allowed to cancel the repairs. The repair shop is required to reassemble your vehicle, unless it is deemed too unsafe to drive. It is noteworthy that the shop will likely be able to still charge you for any cost associated with teardown and reassembly.
After the work is completed, a Florida repair shop is required to provide documentation of what repairs were done to your vehicle. The accounting must be legible, and should include an itemized description of the labor and parts that went into the repair work. The repair shop is not able, legally, to refuse to return your vehicle should you refuse to pay for unauthorized repairs or for repair charges that violate the final estimate rules as laid out in Chapter 559 of the Florida Statutes.
Contact Moran, Sanchy & Associates
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, contact the Sarasota consumer fraud lawyers at Moran, Sanchy & Associates and speak with a competent attorney on the specifics of your case.