Area of Law: Consumer Law
Answer # 817
Motor vehicle repairsRegion: Ontario Answer # 817
Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, 2002 protects consumers when doing business with car dealerships, used car lots, neighbourhood garages, muffler shops, autobody shops, and gas stations. When repairing a vehicle, the law in Ontario says that you must be given a clear estimate for work and repairs, and a minimum warranty for all parts and labour. Anyone who works on or repairs the vehicle for a fee must obey this law.
The Act applies to cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and motor-assisted bicycles.
The right to a written estimate
If you ask for a written estimate, you cannot be charged for any work or repairs unless you accept this estimate and authorize the job. Estimates must include:
- Your name and address, and the name and address of the garage or shop,
- A complete identification of your vehicle,
- A description of the work or repairs to be done,
- A list of the parts to be installed,
- Information about whether these parts will be new, used, or reconditioned,
- The price of these parts,
- The number of hours that will be billed,
- The hourly rate,
- The total labour costs,
- The total amount that will be billed,
- The date the estimate is given,
- The date when the work and repairs will be completed, and
- The date after which the estimate is no longer good.
The garage cannot charge you for providing an estimate unless you are told in advance that there is a cost and what the cost will be.
By law, the fee for providing an estimate includes the cost of diagnostic time plus the cost of reassembling your vehicle. It also includes the parts a garage or shop might damage and have to replace while providing an estimate.
If you authorize someone to work on your vehicle and the work is completed, you cannot be charged for the estimate, even if you were told about the costs of providing an estimate from the start. The only exception is when the garage or shop has to wait a long time for your authorization. If this happens and your vehicle has to be reassembled and moved to free up repair space, you can be charged for both the estimate as well as the repairs.
How much can you be charged?
There is a limit to how much you can be charged for work or repairs on your vehicle. First, you cannot legally be charged for work or repairs unless you authorized the job. Second, if you received a written estimate, you cannot be charged more that 10% above that estimate.
If you authorize a job by telephone, the garage or shop must record your authorization in writing.
You can get parts returned to you
When you authorize a garage or shop to work on your vehicle, you should say whether you want your old parts returned to you. Unless you say you do not, the garage or shop must offer to return old parts, and the garage must give the old parts to you in a clean container if you do want them.
Posted signs required
Every garage or shop must post signs stating the following five things:
- Whether they charge for estimates,
- That written estimates are available upon request,
- That old parts can be returned to you after the work or repairs are done,
- How labour costs will be calculated, including the hourly rate and any pre-set or minimum time charged for labour, and
- The telephone of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, unless this telephone number is printed on the invoice or repair order.
The signs must be posted in a conspicuous place where the customers can see them.
Warranty on all work or repairs
The law says that your garage or shop must give warranties on all new or reconditioned parts and the labour needed to install them. This warranty must be for a minimum of 90 days, or 5,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
During the warranty period, if your vehicle breaks down or becomes unsafe because of the work done by the garage, take it back to the garage or shop that did the work. If this is not practical, you can have your vehicle repaired somewhere else. By law, the original place must reimburse you for the cost of the work or repairs it charged you. In practice, however, it is not always easy to get your money back.
What to do if the garage or shop disobeys the law
If the garage or shop does not obey the law, there are two things you can do. First, you may have to take the garage or shop to Small Claims Court and prove that your vehicle broke down because of the work the garage did or failed to do. If found liable, the garage or shop will also owe you towing costs if your vehicle had to be towed.
Second, you have the option of contacting the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and making a complaint. The Ministry has the power to investigate the situation. A person or company that violates the law may be convicted and fined. However, this will not help you in recovering any money that the garage may owe you.
More information on the legislation regarding auto repair shops in Ontario can be found from Consumer Protection Ontario. For more information on making a complaint with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, visit ontario.ca.
For legal advice, contact a lawyer or paralegal.
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