In Quebec, the Consumer Protection Act (hereinafter the “CPA”) sets out certain guidelines to be respected by merchants in order to protect consumers. The CPA also applies to car repairs and mechanics, and they are expected to know the laws regulating their field of work. Here are the key aspects regarding mechanics.
The CPA provides you with a guarantee!
The guarantee offered by the CPA in matters of repairs is not to be confused with the manufacturer’s warranty. The CPA’s guarantee is three months or less than 5000 km, whichever comes first. The guarantee provided by the CPA includes parts and labour related to the repairs mentioned in the written estimate, rather than other problems that the car may have. There is no guarantee for repairs of less than $50.
When does the estimate for repairs have to be written?
If the costs to repair a vehicle exceed $100, the merchant has an obligation to provide you with a written estimate of the repairs before the work is started. The estimate must contain, amongst other things, the nature of the repairs to be made, the description of the parts to be changed, specifying whether they are new or not, as well as the total cost of the repairs to be made.
In some cases, the written estimate is not mandatory. For example, if the consumer does not have to pay for anything because the repairs are covered by the warranty, the estimate is not necessary. If the consumer does not want the estimate, the merchant does not need to provide one. In this case, however, the consumer will have to specifically confirm this in writing on the estimate. Thirdly, a written estimate is not required if the cost for repairs do not exceed $100, including parts and labour.
How many hours can the mechanic bill you?
The rule of thumb is that the mechanic cannot charge you more hours than the maximum amount that he indicated on the estimate. For example, if the mechanic indicated two hours on his estimate, but took five hours to repair the problem, he will only be allowed to charge you for two hours of work. On the flipside, if the repair only took him one hour, he could still charge you for two.
Do unforeseen repairs have to be paid?
While working on your vehicle, if the mechanic notices something else that has to be fixed, the mechanic must contact the consumer to obtain his authorization prior to repair the new issue. Without the consumer’s consent, the mechanic will not be able force the consumer to pay for the extra work. If the authorization has been given, the mechanic must then add on the estimate the name of the consumer who gave the consent as well his or her phone number, date and time. The mechanic will have to repeat these steps every time he finds something new to fix that was not written down on the initial estimate.
Can the mechanic prevent you from recuperating your car or truck?
The consumer’s main obligation is to pay the bill once the repairs have been made. If the consumer does not pay, the mechanic could hold on to the vehicle. The mechanic cannot hold on to the car, however, if there was no written estimate or if the total costs exceed those indicated on the original estimate or on the authorized modification when the consumer has paid the price that had been originally agreed upon.
Can the mechanic charge you for the estimate?
An estimate to determine the costs of a repair is normally free. A mechanic can charge you for the estimate, however, if he warns the consumer about its cost prior to doing it. If there are unforeseen extra costs, the consumer does not need to pay for them. Furthermore, the consumer does not need to assign the work to the mechanic who completed the estimate. He may choose to go elsewhere for the repairs.
The consumer can also request the old or broken parts once the repairs have been made. However, the consumer must notify the mechanic before he starts the repairs or the car. He cannot request the parts however, if they are subject to a warranty and have been requested by the manufacturer, when the repairs are carried out without charge to the consumer, or when the part is exchanged for a re-tooled or reconditioned part.
You have a problem with an invoice (or another type of problem) with your mechanic? Your client did not pay you for your work? Send them a demand letter !