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MOTOR VEHICLE REPAIRS IN WISCONSIN

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) regulates many consumer transactions, including motor vehicle repairs. A customer has certain rights when getting his or her vehicle repaired. These rights are outlined in the DATCP’s regulations, specifically Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter ATCP 132. A copy of the Code can be obtained from the DATCP or at your local courthouse library located in the county courthouse.

Chapter ATCP 132 is applicable when a motor vehicle is repaired by a repair shop. A “motor vehicle” is a motor vehicle or a motor home. “Repair” is a broad term, which can mean the diagnosis of a problem, the installation or removal of a part, improvement, adjustment, replacement, maintenance, or service of a motor vehicle or its parts. A “repair shop” is a person or business that engages in the motor vehicle repair business.

Violations and Remedies

If a repair shop violates Chapter ATCP 132, the customer could sue in court to enforce his or her rights and to obtain damages. In addition, Wisconsin law provides that customers are entitled to double any financial loss suffered as a result of a violation, as well as receive reasonable attorney fees and court costs.

If you believe your repair shop violated the law, you should contact a private consumer law attorney. Look at the ads in the yellow pages under "Consumer Law Attorneys." Look for ads indicating no charge for initial consultation. Also, you can obtain the name of a consumer law attorney from the State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (608) 257-4666 (in Dane County) or (800) 362-9082 (statewide). If you are low-income, and you have a claim concerning a violation of Chapter ATCP 132, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. may be able to assist you. However, because your attorney fees may be payable by the repair shop if ordered by a court, you should consult a private attorney first before seeking legal representation at Legal Action.

In addition to searching for a lawyer, you should file a complaint against the repair shop with the DATCP. The DATCP keeps track of such complaints in order to fine, enjoin, or criminally charge shops that violate the regulations. The DATCP can be contacted by mail at PO Box 8911, Madison, WI, 53708 or by phone at (800) 422-7128. You can also visit its website at www.datcp.state.wi.us.

Rights and Rules under Chapter ATCP 132

This is not a complete list of rights and rules under Chapter ATCP 132. You should refer to the actual Code or a lawyer for further information concerning the application of these rules to your particular situation.

Repair Authorization
No shop may perform any repair that has not been authorized by the customer. Before a shop starts any repairs whose total price may exceed $50, a shop representative shall record the repair authorization on a written repair order.

Written Repair Order
Before a shop starts any repairs whose total price may exceed $50, a shop representative must prepare a written repair order that clearly and legibly describes the repairs authorized by the customer. If there is face-to-face contact with the customer, a copy of the repair order must be given to the customer. The repair order must include the following:
  1. Name and address of the shop.
  2. Name and address of the customer.
  3. Model, make, and license number of vehicle, if the vehicle is in the shop’s possession.
  4. Repair estimate (if required – See Repair Estimate below)
  5. Estimated completion date, if the shop accepts a prepayment of $250 or more
  6. Notice that the customer is entitled to inspect or receive any components, parts, or accessories replaced or removed by the shop.
  7. Description of the repairs authorized by the customer.
  8. Date the repair order is written.
  9. Signature of shop representative.
Repair Estimate
Before a shop starts any repairs whose total price may exceed $50, and if there has been face-to-face contact between the customer and shop representative, the representative must provide the customer with a written statement of “estimate alternatives” OR a “firm price quotation.”

Estimate Alternatives
“YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A PRICE ESTIMATE FOR THE REPAIRS YOU HAVE AUTHORIZED. THE REPAIR PRICE MAY BE LESS THAN THE ESTIMATE, BUT WILL NOT EXCEED THE ESTIMATE WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. YOUR SIGNATURE WILL INDICATE YOUR ESTIMATE SELECTION.

1. I request an estimate in writing before you begin repairs. ________________________
2. Please proceed with repairs, but call me before continuing if the price will exceed $______. ________________________________________________________________
3. I do not want an estimate. ________________________________________________”


OR

Firm Price Quotation
A firm price quotation must be written on the repair order followed by:

“THIS PRICE FOR THE AUTHORIZED REPAIRS WILL NOT BE EXCEEDED IF THE MOTOR VEHICLE IS DELIVERED TO THE SHOP WITHIN 5 DAYS.”

Repair Invoice
A shop must prepare an invoice covering every repair made by the shop. The shop must provide the customer with a complete and accurate copy of the repair invoice before the shop returns the motor vehicle to the customer. The repair invoice must include:
  1. Name and address of the shop.
  2. Name and address of the customer.
  3. Date on which the repaired vehicle, component, part, or accessory is given back to the customer.
  4. Model, make, and license number of vehicle, if the vehicle was in the shop’s possession.
  5. Odometer reading when the vehicle was received by the shop, if the vehicle was in the shop’s possession.
  6. Price for repairs, stated as the total price or as separate total prices for parts and labor.
  7. Itemized description of the labor, parts, components, and accessories supplied in connection with the repairs, including items supplied without cost or at reduced cost because of a shop or manufacturer’s warranty. If units of labor time based on flat rate average time are stated on the invoice, the actual labor time must also be stated.
  8. If the parts, components, and accessories carry a warranty from the shop or manufacturer, a statement or notation indicating that fact.
  9. If the parts, components, and accessories are used, rebuilt, recycled, or reconditioned, a statement or notation indicating that fact.
  10. Identity of each person performing the repairs, including the name of any shop that performed all or part of the repairs as a subcontractor.
  11. Following statement: “Motor vehicle repair practices are regulated by chapter ATCP 132, Wis. Adm. Code, administered by the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, Wisconsin 53708-8911.”
Prohibited Practices
  • No shop may knowingly underestimate the price of repairs or time required to complete the repairs.
  • No shop may misrepresent any of the following:
    • That repairs are necessary for the safety or effective operation of a vehicle.
    • That a vehicle is in a dangerous condition.
    • That failure to repair a vehicle will be harmful to the vehicle.
    • That a repair has been made.
    • The terms of any warranty or service agreement.
  • No shop may fail or refuse to return a customer’s vehicle 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 the repair.
  • No shop may:
    • Alter any person’s vehicle with intent to create a condition requiring repairs.
    • Make any vehicle 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 right under Chapter ATCP 132.
    • 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 kept under Chapter ATCP 132.
    • Charge or threaten to charge 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.

The above is intended to provide general information only and is not a substitute for thorough and specific advice on an individual case. Depending on the complexity of your legal problem, you may need to consult an attorney for advice or representation.

This was prepared by the staff of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. on behalf of low-income clients and was funded by the Legal Services Corporation, Washington, D.C., 20005. Any opinions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be construed as those of the Legal Services Corporation.

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the provision of services or in employment. If you need printed material interpreted or in a different form, or if you need assistance in using our services, please inform us. Deaf, hearing-impaired, or speech-impaired callers may reach us through the Wisconsin Telecommunication Relay System (711 or 1-800-947-3529).
©September 2006 Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc.


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