About a fourth of all complaints made to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are car-related; half of those deal with automotive repairs. In an effort to protect its consumers, New Jersey enacted the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations which sets forth an extensive list of auto repair shop practices that are deemed to be deceptive. If a car repair shop engages in one of these practices, it violates both the regulations and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
To learn more about your rights as a consumer and avoid some of the problems that may result from a trip to a car repair shop, read on.
(For more articles on consumer law protections in New Jersey, visit Nolo's New Jersey Debt Management & Consumer Law Center.)
Under the law, an automotive repair dealer is any person or business who, for compensation, performs maintenance, diagnosis, or repair services on a motor vehicle or replaces auto parts. Automotive repair dealers are required to be licensed with the state and are required to renew their licenses annually. If an automotive repair dealer has not renewed its license, it will not be allowed to conduct automobile repairs.
The law applies to all maintenance and repairs performed by an automotive repair dealer, but excludes tire changes, lubricating vehicles, oil changing, and installing light bulbs, batteries, windshield wiper blades, and other minor accessories and services.
It is unlawful under the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act for an automotive repair dealer to do any of the following:
If you have a problem with repair work done on your vehicle, you should immediately speak to the owner of the repair shop and explain the nature of your complaint. If you cannot resolve the problem with the repair shop, you can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Consumer Affairs will attempt to mediate the dispute. Or you can consult with a consumer law attorney to discuss the options that may be available.
If an automotive repair dealer violates any of the provisions of the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practice Regulations (and thereby also violates the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act)t, you may be able to cancel the repair contract and receive triple damages, attorneys' fees and costs of suit.
Below are some tips for avoiding problems when using an auto repair shop.
Shop around. Prior to selecting an auto repair shop, take the time to shop around and ask family or friends for recommendations.
Beware of discounts. Always be wary of auto repair facilities that offer discount offers to do the repair work. Make sure the repair shop is licensed and insured.
Pay attention to the repair order. Never sign a blank repair order and make sure that you fully understand the repair order, and that it clearly reflects what work you want done to the vehicle. Under the law, you may waive your right to an estimate, but must sign a written waiver in order to do so. Before you waive this right, remember, the requirement for a written estimate is there to protect you from unscrupulous auto repair shops.