Vehicle Repair Shop Scams

The State of California Bureau of Automotive Repair, B.A.R., has launched a new program called the Auto Body Inspection Program. The program is to help consumers who believe they have been ripped off by an auto body shop.

If the repairs were more than $2,500 and you believe the body shop or repair shop did not do the work correctly or did not do some of the work at all, you can call the BAR and file a complaint. The complaint must come with in 120 days of when you got the vehicle back form the body shop.

You must have a copy of the invoice that lists all the work that was to be done and the part. The BAR will then start an investigation and the results of that investigation could lead to criminal actions against the repair shop. A representative of the bureau told me on my Troubleshooter Show that the information that the state investigators uncover about the repairs can by used by the consumer in Small Claims Court or Superior Court to file suit against the shop for damages. For information and to file a complaint against a body shop call this number at the BAR:
1 866-881-1332.

All state licensed vehicle repair facilities must have a large metal sign outlining consumer rights for vehicle repair. The problem is that many times these signs are posted behind doors where consumers cannot see them. Here are your basic rights set out by state law:

  • You must get a written estimate of labor costs and parts. Both you and the shop employee must sign this estimate.
  • This estimate cannot be changed or increased without your permission, which can be gotten on the phone. The shop operator cannot just add repairs that you did not OK first.
  • You have the right to get your old parts back after the repair. But you must tell the operator of the shop that you want them when you get your estimate and write in on the estimate. I suggest that you always ask for the old parts back.
  • If you do not agree with what the estimate says and what the mechanic did on your vehicle you have the right to talk to the manager. If you are told the manager is busy tell them you will contact the BAR.

You should take your complaints to the BAR at: 1 800-952-5210. The BAR has regional offices for its investigators.

This is the newest complaint I have from a Los Angeles woman named Cynthia. She took her car into a shop and they told her it would be $350. When she returned to pickup here car the bill was $2,000. They told her they found other things that needed to be done. She had asked for her parts returned, but they could not return them all because apparently they had not really replaced one part that they had charged for and said they replaced. She contacted the BAR with complaint. She stooped payment on her $2,000 check she had written to get her car out of the shop.

Cynthia contacted me and I told her she was only obligated to pay the $350 if they actually did the work. The shop wanted to settle for just $1,000. She is taking them to court. If the shop was smart they would say forget the entire bill. This shop can lose its state license for this type of scam. Let the mechanic shops know up front that you know your rights under the law and you want all your parts back, and they are not to increase the estimate without your permission.