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Law Talk: Don't get taken on shoddy car repairs

Community Legal Services | News | January 15th, 2007

Car repairs are something that many students fear about owning a car. Shady shops that overcharge or do not provide the proper repairs do exist. However, with the right precautions and a full understanding of your rights as a consumer, it is possible to make the process of getting your car repaired much safer.

The first step to ensure a good repair transaction is finding the right repair shop. It is a good idea to talk with family and friends about their experiences and recommendations. It may also be helpful to consult with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Although not all car repair shops are part of the Bureau's program, the BBB has a searchable database of many companies, which lists any complaints against the company. This database can be accessed at The Canadian Automobile Association ( and the Automobile Protection Association ( also maintain lists of recommended repair companies.

Once you have found a possible repair shop, it is a good idea to visit their location. Any shop that does car repairs is regulated by the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 (CPA). The Act requires repair shops to place a sign in an obvious location stating that written estimates will be available upon request, how labour costs will be calculated, the cost for an estimate, and whether the mechanics are paid a commission. If a shop does not post this information, it may be a sign that they are not a reputable business.

You should also get several estimates. The CPA requires all repair shops to provide an estimate unless the customer specifically indicated they do not want one. Shops are allowed to charge for the estimate as long as they inform the customer in advance of the fee. They cannot however charge for an estimate if you authorize them to proceed with the repairs within a reasonable amount of time.

Once you have settled on a repair shop be sure to review and authorize their work order. Some shops use the same form for both the estimate and the work orders. By law the work order is required to include the following pieces of information;

1. A description of the work being done,

2. The parts to be installed,

3. Whether the parts are new or used,

4. The price of the parts,

5. The number of hours to be billed for services,

6. The hourly rate to be charged, and

7. The total amount being billed.

Ensure that all of this information is provided before signing the form. Never sign a blank or incomplete work order as it could allow the repair shop to charge an amount higher than was verbally indicated to you.

The CPA also requires that the total costs of the repairs cannot exceed the amount in the written estimate by more than 10 per cent without authorization (either written or via telephone) from the customer. After the completion of the repairs, the repair shop is required to provide you with an invoice containing details about the repairs done, the total price of the repairs, the odometer reading of the car and the date returned. Knowing these rights in advance of your repair transaction should help you find the right repair shop.

If you have any problems with a repair shop, contact them and express your concern. If you are unsatisfied by the shop's response you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Government Services at

This column provides legal information only and is written by the law students of Community Legal Services If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4577.

Fanshawe College students may also book an appointment to attend our outreach clinic at the College. Please call us at 1-519-661-3352 to book an appointment.
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