Have you ever received a bill for an amount that was completely unexpected? Or worse—you obtain a quote for a service, and then the company charges you well above the quoted price, tacking on fees and trying to explain away the discrepancy. We’ve all been there. However, when it comes to your car repairs, you shouldn’t be surprised by your bill, and, if you are, you might have a claim against the repair shop.
The North Carolina Motor Vehicle Repair Act applies to all motor vehicle repair shops in North Carolina, with a few exceptions. Pursuant to § 20‑354.3 of the Act, the repair shop is required to provide the customer a written repair estimate detailing the estimated cost of the repairs (including diagnostic work), before performing any portion of those repairs, if the estimate is to exceed $350.00. This requirement can be waived in writing by the customer. Moreover, if there is a charge associated with preparing the estimate itself, the repair shop must disclose that to the customer and obtain a written authorization from the customer to prepare the estimate before doing so, pursuant to § 20‑354.4. In the event the repair shop determines the repair cost will exceed the written estimate by more than 10%, § 20‑354.5 requires the repair shop to notify the customer, who “shall, orally or in writing, authorize, modify, or cancel the order for repair.” Upon completion of the repairs, the repair shop must deliver to the customer a detailed invoice pursuant to § 20‑354.6. Section 20‑354.8 details several specific acts and practices that are prohibited by the Act.
So, what happens if you don’t receive a written estimate for your car repairs, or a repair shop charges you way more than they quoted you for repairing your vehicle? Section 20‑354.9 states that a customer who is injured by a violation of the Act may bring an action in court for relief against the repair shop and/or an action for injunctive relief. If successful, this section provides the customer could be entitled to damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees. In addition, the North Carolina Department of Justice notes that even if your repair is not covered by the Act, you are still protected by the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
In summary, the next time you take you motor vehicle in for repairs, make sure you receive a written estimate and authorize the quoted repairs and associated costs prior to the repair shop beginning work on your vehicle. If you believe you have been damaged by a repair shop’s violation of the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Repair Act or Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, please contact us at 704‑457‑1010 to see how we can help. For more information about our attorneys and practice areas, please visit our website here.