Motor vehicle repair shops are regulated by the state. If there is a problem with a shop, your state’s Department of State will investigate your consumer complaint.
Since 1974, Michigan’s Department of State has been charged with licensing and regulating motor vehicle repair shops, informing consumers of their automotive repair rights, and investigating consumer complaints. Common complaints involve charging for repairs that were not done and being informed that you need repairs that were not needed, even if you didn’t have the repairs done. The Motor Vehicle Service and Repair act, MCL 257.1307 prohibits such unfair or deceptive practices.
You are supposed to receive a written estimate itemizing as closely as possible the price for labor and parts necessary for a specific job prior to starting the work. You can’t be charged for work done or parts supplied in excess of the estimated price without having given your written or oral consent before any extra work is done or extra parts are supplied. MCL 257.1332. Also, the mechanic has to inform you of your right to receive or see replaced parts (in at least 12 point boldface font) before you hire him, and then once the work is done, he has to offer to show you the parts unless you aren’t being charged for them, or unless they are an exempt part. MCL 257.1333.
When the vehicle is returned to you after specialty work was done, the mechanic has to give you a written statement disclosing repairs needed, repairs requested, repairs authorized, the estimate, the actual cost of repairs, and the repairs or services performed, including a detailed identification of all parts that were replaced and a specification as to which are new, used, rebuilt, or reconditioned. Importantly, you are to be given a “certification” (statement signed by owner or representative) that the repairs were completed properly or a detailed explanation of an inability to complete repairs properly, and the name of the mechanic(s) who performed the diagnosis and repair.
If any of these requirements are not met, or if there is an unfair or deceptive method, act, or practice, the facility is liable for your damage or injury. MCL 257.1336. You are entitled to an amount equal to your damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs. If the damage or injury is the result of a willful and flagrant violation, you may receive double the damages plus your reasonable attorney fees and costs.
If you get a repair done and soon thereafter, your car breaks down, in addition to your statutory claim, you may also have a claim for negligence and/or breach of warranty.
In order to provide a solid basis for your claim(s), discuss everything in detail ahead of time. Ask about who will do the work and whether they are licensed – who is the Master Mechanic and whether he will be supervising if not performing the work himself. Ask about whether there is a warranty and if so, any details you should be aware of. Ask to read the warranty ahead of time and follow-up with specific questions about the warranty. This could be very important. For example, if you get your engine rebuilt and the work comes with a warranty, check to see if the warranty requires you to have the oil changed at a certain mileage, if there is a certain oil that you must or must not use, or if you are supposed to file any paperwork within a time limit, for example. Ask why those requirements are in place. Know what you are getting into.