auto repair disputes

Wisconsin’s motor vehicle repair law contains numerous protections for consumers.  Most of those protections can generally fit into one of three broad categories: authorizations auto repair shops must obtain before making repairs, written disclosures auto repair shops must provide customers and the identification of practices and acts auto repair shops are prohibited from using.

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An auto repair shop may not perform any repair that has not been authorized by a customer.  An auto repair shop is required, prior to starting any repair that may cost more than $50, to prepare a written repair order that clearly describes the repairs authorized by the customer, the estimated repair price and the estimated completion date, among other things.

Prior to starting any additional repairs, beyond those previously authorized by the customer, an auto repair shop must provide the customer with a description of the proposed additional repairs and a good faith estimate of the price for the proposed additional repairs.

An auto repair shop also must obtain a customer’s authorization to proceed if it has reason to believe that the repairs will exceed the original estimate or will not be completed by the estimated completion date.  Furthermore, if the customer gives the auto repair shop authorization to make the additional repairs, the auto repair shop must record the authorization on the repair order.

ivan hannibal attorney madison wiAn auto repair shop is required to provide the customer with a complete and accurate copy of the repair invoice before the shop returns the vehicle to the customer.  The repair invoice must identify, among other things, all repairs made by the auto repair shop, an itemized description of the labor, parts and components supplied in connection with the repairs and the price for the repairs.

Wisconsin’s motor vehicle repair law prohibits an auto repair shop from knowingly underestimating the price of repairs or the time required to complete the repairs, misrepresenting that repairs are necessary for the safety or effective operation of a motor vehicle or represent that a repair has been made when in fact is has not.

Wisconsin’s motor vehicle repair law prohibits an auto repair shop from refusing to return a customer’s vehicle because the customer declines to pay for unauthorized repairs, provided the customer pays for the repairs that were authorized and performed.  The law also prohibits an auto repair shop from refusing to return a customer’s vehicle because the customer fails to pay for any repair charge that exceeds the shop’s estimate or firm price quotation for the repair—provided the customer pays the amount identified in the estimate when the customer authorized the repair.

If you believe that an auto repair shop violated the law, call the Auto Justice Law Office for a free phone consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.  A customer who prevails in their claim against an auto repair shop is entitled to recover damages as well as costs and attorney fees.

Repair Authorization

  • An auto repair shop may not perform any repair that has not been authorized by a customer

Written Repair Orders

  • Prior to starting any repairs whose total price may exceed $50, an auto repair shop must prepare a written repair order that clearly and legibly describes the repairs authorized by the customer
  • The written repair order must be dated and signed by the auto repair shop representative and must include all of the following information:
    • The customer’s name
    • The name and address of the auto repair shop, and signature of a shop representative
    • The model, make and license number of the motor vehicle
    • The estimated repair price or a firm repair price quotation
    • The estimated completion date
    • Notice that the customer is entitled to inspect or receive any components, parts or accessories replaced or removed by the shop
    • A description of the repairs authorized by the customer
    • The date the repair order is written
  • An auto repair shop must provide the customer with a complete and accurate copy of the written repair order, unless there was no face-to-face contact between the customer and auto repair shop representative when the repairs were authorized

Additional Repair Authorization

  • Prior to starting any additional repairs, beyond those previously authorized by the customer, an auto repair shop must contact the customer and provide the following information:
    • A description of the proposed additional repairs
    • A good faith estimate of the price for the proposed additional repairs
    • A good faith estimate of the total repair price, including the previously authorized repairs and the additional repairs
  • An auto repair shop must obtain a customer’s authorization to proceed if it has reason to believe the following:
    • The price for repairs will exceed the estimate
    • The repairs will not be completed by the estimated completion date
  • If a customer gives additional authorization to make repair after being informed of the need for additional repairs, the price for repairs will exceed the estimate or that the repairs will not be completed by the estimated date, the auto repair shop must record the additional authorization on the repair order.
  • The auto repair shop must record the following on the repair order related to the additional repair authorization:
    • The date and time of authorization
    • The name of the person who gave the additional authorization
    • A description of the additional repairs authorized
    • The new total price estimate
    • The new estimated completion date

Repair Invoices

  • An auto repair shop is required to provide the customer with a complete and accurate copy of the repair invoice before the shop returns the customer’s vehicle to the customer
  • The repair invoice must clearly and conspicuously disclose, among other things, all of the following:
      • The name and address of the auto repair shop
      • The name and address of the customer
      • The date on which the repaired motor vehicle, component, part or accessory is given back to the customer
      • The model, make and license number of the motor vehicle
      • The odometer reading when the vehicle was received by the shop
      • The price for the repairs
      • An itemized description of the labor, parts, components and accessories supplied in connection with the repairs
      • An identification of the repairs, if any, that were made pursuant to a warranty
      • An identification of the parts, components and accessories that were used, rebuilt, recycled or reconditioned

Prohibited Practices

      • No auto repair shop may knowingly underestimate either of the following:
        • The price of repairs
        • The time required to complete the repairs
      • No auto repair shop may misrepresent any of the following:
        • That repairs are necessary for the safety or effective operation of a motor vehicle
        • That a motor vehicle is in a dangerous condition
        • That failure to repair a motor vehicle will be harmful to the motor vehicle
        • That a repair has been made
        • The terms of any warranty or service agreement
      • No auto repair shop may fail or refuse to return a customer’s motor vehicle to the customer because a customer declines to do either of the following:
        • Pay for unauthorized repairs, provided the customer tenders payment for the repairs that were authorized and performed
        • Pay any repair charge that exceeds the shop’s estimate or firm price quotation for that repair, provided the customer tenders payment of the charge estimated or quoted to the customer when the customer authorized that repair
      • No auto repair shop may:
        • Alter a customer’s motor vehicle with intent to create a condition requiring repairs
        • Make any repair or warranty advertisement which is untrue, deceptive or misleading
        • Fail or refuse to honor any warranty or service agreement to which the shop is a party
        • Make the performance of repairs contingent upon the customer’s waiver of any legal rights under Wisconsin’s administrative rule governing motor vehicle repairs
        • Demand or receive payment for unauthorized repairs, or for repairs that have not been performed
        • Falsify or destroy any document or record required to be produced or maintained by Wisconsin’s administrative rule governing motor vehicle repairs
        • Charge or threaten to charge a consumer for preparing a repair estimate or firm price quotation unless both of the following apply:
          • The charge constitutes reasonable compensation for preliminary diagnostic work that is reasonably required for the shop to give the repair estimate or firm price quotation
          • A shop representative discloses the charge, or the rate at which the charge will be computed, before the shop starts any diagnostic work for which a charge will be assessed