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Consumer Rights and Automotive Repairs

What are your consumer rights when you get your car repaired by a repair shop?

New Jersey has a host of administrative code regulations that apply to the repair of automobiles. The dealer or repair shop is assumed to be aware of their obligations under these regulations and a violation of the automotive repair regulations is a per se violation of the Consumer Fraud Act (incurring triple damages and fees).

13:45A-26C.2 Deceptive practices; Automotive Repairs

Misleading and deceptive statements;

Starting work without proper authorization;

Failure to give customer a copy of the signed receipt;

Charging the customer for work done or parts supplied in excess of any estimated price given, without the oral or written consent of the customer;

Failure to return parts that are requested;

Failure to list all work performed and whether any new, rebuilt, reconditioned or used parts have been supplied;

Failure to deliver all warranties or guaranties;

Failure to disclose specifics of the guarantee;

Failure to post, in a conspicuous place, a sign informing the customer that the automotive repair dealer is obliged to provide a written estimate when the customer physically presents his motor vehicle to the automotive repair dealer during normal working hours and, in any event, before work is commenced.

If the dealership does any of the above acts you have a claim for fraud or consumer fraud against the automotive repair facility.You have to demonstrate that you have sustained an ascertainable loss. This ascertainable loss could be as simple as another cost repair or an estimate to fix the dealer’s mistake. Sometimes, if there is a violation of the administrative code with no corresponding loss there is no damage. If you have not sustained any damage you cannot make a claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.If you sign a contract that violates the rights you might have a claim for statutory damages which should be limited to $100. That would be under the Truth in Contract and Warranty Notice Act.

While that sounds nice in theory it does not provide you for recompense with what you would expect. Remember, the Consumer Fraud Act and all of the regulations provide for economic damages for economic losses therefore it is imperative to determine what your losses are at the beginning of any claim against a repair shop or a car dealer.

While the New Jersey Supreme Court has specifically addressed the perceived violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act specifically stated as well as all the other corresponding decisions you need an ascertainable loss.

Various claims might include preparing investment with certain items included in the estimate and not placing civic items in the car. The repair facility might receive an authorization and were an estimate from an adjuster from an insurance company and not make those authorized repairs. The repair facility might use different parts then specifically required for an estimate. The repair facility might cause additional damage the vehicle to submit claims to the insurance company.The repair facility might arrange for the estimate to be lost than a total loss so they get the opportunity repair the vehicle. Sometimes an insurance company wants to totally vehicle however based on the input for the repair facility insurance company might not total the vehicle. This permits the repair facility to conduct a complete repair, be paid, when the vehicle would ordinarily be salvage and no money would be paid for repairs. These are types of claims that would affect your consumer rights and cause you ascertainable loss under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

Many times when handling these claims it is necessary to get an expert to look at the repair estimate issued by the insurance company and examined the vehicle to determine whether or not the repairs are made, whether or not the repairs made properly, and whether or not the appropriate parts were used. It is imperative to establish a strong and the case against the repair facility when litigating one of these claims. Usually an expert is required sometimes it is not. It is always better to get an expert to testify against the repair facility to demonstrate they did not comply with the customer’s request for the insurance company’s request.