Legal Tips from CLEO: Your Rights When Taking Your Car in for Repair

November 16, 2016 | Katherine

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This guest post is one in a series providing practical, easy to understand legal information from CLEO (Community Legal Information Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario).

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While most garages are trustworthy, many people have understandable worries about being overcharged, getting shoddy work, or being charged for unnecessary repairs.

This blog post outlines some of the 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 he or she and the shop agree on a maximum amount that the shop can charge.

The shop can't charge the customer anything unless they give the customer either an estimate or the customer and the shop agree on a maximum amount for the cost of the repairs. 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 want them.

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. The description must include:

• 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, the customer should try getting a written report from a different repair shop saying that the job wasn't done properly. This might help convince the first shop to correct the problem.

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

The Ministry has a complaint form that can be downloaded or filled out online.

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. And after 60 days, they can even sell the vehicle.

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

Additional resources at Toronto Public Library

The annotated Ontario Consumer Protection Act, latest edition

The art of complaining: Canada's consumer action guide print or eBook

Chilton's Auto Repair  Database of do it yourself repair manuals, maintenance schedules, service bulletins. Available anywhere.  Sign in with your library card.

What the "experts" may not tell you about car repair

Popular mechanics car owner's companion: 101 things you need to know

 

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