Dear Consumer Ed:
I dropped my car off to a repair shop 6 weeks ago and I still don't have my vehicle. I was given a verbal estimate of $400 the first week and told that it was a bad crankshaft sensor and a bad ignition coil. I've been calling every day to stay on the company to check the status of my vehicle, but the mechanic has given me the run-around every week. Now the mechanic is quoting an $880 price tag and is still giving me a run-around. The estimates I’ve gotten have been verbal, not written. Do I have any legal recourse or is this normal?
Consumer Ed says:
You didn’t say whether or not the mechanic has actually performed any work on your car. If the mechanic hasn’t actually performed any work or maintenance on your car, get your car back and take it to several other repair shops to get additional diagnoses and estimates.
If the mechanic has already worked on your car, and you refuse to pay the repair bill, the mechanic can legally keep your car until you pay for the repairs. So, you should pay the bill, making clear in writing that you disagree with what has been charged and are paying under protest. However, you should take certain steps before you pay the bill so you are protected in case of potential legal actions against the mechanic. If the amount the mechanic charged is much higher than the estimate, or if the work was done without your authorization and you feel that you have been overcharged, question the bill—again, in writing as well as verbally. Have the shop write out the reasons for the difference in cost, and keep this written explanation together with the work estimate, final bill, and other paperwork. You can also send the mechanic a written demand to return your old parts.
After paying the bill and getting your car back, you may be able to take legal action against the mechanic, but you should consult an attorney to discuss your options. You can also submit a complaint to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 404-651-8600, or visiting our interactive website at www.consumer.ga.gov. While the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit does not represent individual consumers, it does look for patterns of unfair and deceptive business practices and may decide to conduct an investigation now or in the future.
You also could take your car to another repair shop as well. Give the second mechanic a copy of your itemized receipt from the first mechanic. Request that the second mechanic inspect the repairs completed and the parts sold by the first mechanic. Get the report from the second mechanic in writing.
In the future, there are several precautions that you can take when getting your car repaired:
• Ask for a written estimate before you authorize repairs.
• Ask if repairs are guaranteed, and get the guarantees in writing.
• Research the mechanic and repair shop using the Better Business Bureau, online search engines, and friends and family.
• Get several estimates from different repair shops.
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