Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC (ADVERTISMENT ONLY)
Next to lawyers and used car salesmen, auto mechanics are the subjects of much criticism. There are good and bad people you deal with. Many of us are vulnerable when our cars need repairs–the mechanic has all of the information and we just have to nod along. Luckily, Ohio law gives you certain rights to protect yourself from many deceptive and unfair business practices.
First, Ohio law requires a repair shop to provide you with a “Notice of Right to an Estimate” form at your first face to face meeting before repairs begin. This form requires that you initial your choice of type of estimate (written, oral, or no estimate). Your mechanic is then obligated to give you the type of estimate that you requested. If there are any changes in the work that will result in a significant price difference, your mechanic may have to provide you with another estimate for the change, and get your approval either over the phone or in writing.
Second, Ohio law requires a repair shop to provide you with a detailed invoice when work is complete. This invoice must contain the cost-break down for all materials separate from all labor performed. This form helps to protect you from a mechanic marking up prices unreasonably, or overcharging you for labor performed. If you are charged $450 for four new tires, that may sound fine. But what if the mechanic gave you $50 tires and only spent an hour doing the work at $50 per hour. There is a big difference between $450 and $250, and you have the right to know the reason you are paying so much.
Third, Ohio law requires that a repair shop live up to any warranties it makes to you. If a mechanic tells you “this will fix that noise,” or “this part will last for 3 years,” or “this labor is so good it will last you another 5,000 miles” those are warranties, promises that they have to live up to. It would be a good idea to get them written down or recorded, but if they orally promise you one thing and deliver you another–that’s a breach of their promise and representation, and that’s something you can contact a lawyer about.
Fourth, if the mechanic is going to charge you garage fees, storage fees, late fees, cancellation fees, interest, or other costs or expenses above and beyond what was in the estimate, they have to tell you before you agree to the work. A refund policy must be posted near the place where you conducted business with the mechanic, like near a register. Your agreement that you sign should state what late fees or cancellation fees you could incur by cancelling the work or not paying on time. Garage fees and storage fees should be posted in the area where you are doing business with the mechanic and/or written in your agreement. You have a right to know these things and not be surprised by them later.
Fifth, the mechanic must start the work within 8-weeks after you pay your deposit. I have heard stories of longer waits than this–if your mechanic does not start work within 8 weeks, you are entitled to a refund of the deposit that you paid, at a minimum.
Finally, you have the right to receive your old parts back from the mechanic once the work is done, but you should make this request before the work starts. Write it on the estimate so it shows up on the mechanic’s copy. You may wish to do this if you want to truly know whether that belt was damaged, whether your break pads were as worn as they said, or whether your other parts actually needed the work the mechanic told you were necessary. It’s your property and your money, after all.
Ohio law provides you with a lot of rights that you probably did not know about. If you are going to a mechanic that doesn’t respect your rights or has taken advantage of you in the past–you should contact a lawyer immediately to see what options are available to you–and find a new mechanic.