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How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at Your Local Auto Repair Shop

Posted by CTM Legal Group | Sep 06, 2023 | 0 Comments

By Attorney Rohail Salman
While many people don't feel an overwhelming sense of trust when it comes to their mechanic, the Automotive Repair Act (the “Act”) seeks to improve that relationship by requiring motor vehicle repair facilities (“repair facilities”) to clearly communicate the certain rights consumers are entitled to and refrain from engaging in unlawful behavior. The goal of the Act is to improve consumer confidence in repair facilities, promote fair and nondeceptive practices, and make serviced vehicles safer to drive.

It's important to note that for any repair work over $100, repair facilities must provide a customer with a written estimate and notice of the consumer's rights prior to initiating any repair work on their vehicle. For example, an oil change typically would not oblige repair facilities to provide a written estimate of the repairs. Further, there are other transactions that are exempted from the Act, which involve the installation of retail merchandise at the customer's discretion for a firm price. Some of these exemptions include tires, batteries, oil and lube jobs. (815 ILCS 306/15). 
When an estimate is required, there is specific information that the repair facility must include in a customer's estimate. The estimate must include the charges for the parts, labor and any diagnostic tests. The parts must be clearly described and state whether they are new or used. Further, the repair facility must state whether the repairs are required or simply suggested by the mechanic as they can be completed at a later date without any safety issue. Importantly, the estimate must include the date, odometer reading, and in the event that more than one working day is required, the approximate length of time required for the repairs. The method of calculating the labor costs must be included on the estimate as well. (815 ILCS 306/15).

Sometimes, the repair facility may miscalculate the estimate they provided to the customer. The Act protects the customer by requiring the repair facility to provide certain disclosures to prevent the final invoice from differing significantly from the estimate. The repair facility must either provide the customer with a written estimate itemizing the costs for parts and labor, which must not exceed 10% once the payment is due, or provide a non-itemized estimate listing the total cost that cannot be exceeded. However, the repair facility can always provide a higher estimate if the customer clearly authorizes it. Further, the customer has the ability to waive their right to a written estimate if they sign the specific disclosure provided by the repair facility, which is outlined in the Act. (815 ILCS 306/20).

Importantly, the Act prohibits repair facilities from certain practices that are considered unlawful. First, repair facilities are restricted from advertising in a false, deceptive, or misleading manner. Next, repair facilities must not charge a customer for parts that were not delivered or installed or for labor that has not been performed. Repair facilities must also refrain from misrepresenting terms of a warranty, guarantee, or service agreement to a customer, and must honor the warranty if they are a contractual party to it. Finally, repair facilities must never alter a customer's vehicle in order to create a condition that requires a repair. This list is not exhaustive as the Act outlines additional unlawful acts that repair facilities must refrain from or face legal consequences. (815 ILCS 306/80).

If you believe your rights under the Automotive Repair Act may have been violated, please contact CTM Legal Group at 312-818-6700 and one of our attorneys can help you navigate the legal issues related to your vehicle.

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