California Automotive Repair Act

The Automotive Repair Act (Bus. & Prof. Code § 9884 et seq.) is a California law that imposes certain requirements/regulations on the auto repair shops.  The Automotive Repair Act was enacted in 1971 and became effective in 1972.

The purpose of the Automotive Repair Act is to foster fair dealing and to eliminate misunderstandings between auto mechanics and consumers.  This statute requires an explicit disclosure to customers of the “labor and parts necessary for a specific job.”

The Act excludes from its scope only a limited and express list of minor repairs of the nature determined by regulation to be “customarily performed by gasoline service stations” B&P Code § 9880.1(e). The Act provides that no services shall be designated as minor if performance of the service requires mechanical expertise, has given rise to a high incidence of fraud or deceptive practices, or involves a part of the vehicle essential to its safe operation.  B&P Code § 9880.1(e).

The expansive scope of the statute was confirmed in Schreiber v. Kelsey (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 45. In Schreiber, an automotive repair business claimed that a transaction was not subject to the disclosure requirements of the Act because the labor and parts were provided for “restoration” of an automobile that had been partially rebuilt, rather than for “automotive repair.”  The California court of appeal rejected the contention, determining that the only work eliminated from the requirements of the statute is work of a minor nature and of a type ordinarily performed by gasoline service stations. The Court found that automobile restoration work was thus subject to the Act’s disclosure requirements.  Id. at 50.

Reference Desk:

Parada v. Small Claims Court70 Cal. App. 3d 766, 768-69 (1977):

The Automotive Repair Act (Bus. Prof. Code, § 9880 et seq.) was enacted to “foster fair dealing, [and] to eliminate misunderstandings” (55 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 276, 278) in transactions involving automotive repairs. It serves to prevent, among other things, an auto repair business from obtaining possession of a vehicle by leading the owner to believe that the cost of repair will be in an amount agreeable to him only to return and find that the cost has increased substantially. Under such a situation the owner has only two options, (1) to pay the increased price, or (2) to seek legal relief in obtaining possession of his car. (Civ. Code, § 3071)

Hence the Automotive Repair Act, as noted, requires (1) a written estimate, and (2) customer authorization to proceed with the work. Delivery of the car to the repairer of course suggests authorization to proceed, however the repairer can only perform those services set forth in the written estimate. If additional work, over and above that estimate, is found to be required, the law requires an oral or written consent.

Bennett v. Hayes, supra, held that where no written estimate was prepared then any work done was “excess” and the repair service could not collect for repairs actually made.

Vasquez v. Solo 1 Kustoms, Inc., 27 Cal. App. 5th 84, 92-92 (2018):

Section 9884.9 is part of the Automotive Repair Act, which is a comprehensive statutory scheme regulating automotive repair dealers.  The Automotive Repair Act was enacted in 1971 in response to widespread fraudulent practices in the automotive repair industry. (Dept. Consumer Affairs, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 51 (1971 Reg. Sess.) as amended May 10, 1971.) Its purpose is to “`foster fair dealing, [and] to eliminate misunderstandings’ [citation] in transactions involving automotive repairs.” (Parada v. Small Claims Court (1977) 70 Cal.App.3d 766, 768-769 [139 Cal.Rptr. 87].)

The Automotive Repair Act contains various provisions regulating dealers’ interactions with customers. (See, e.g., §§ 9884.8, 9884.9, 9884.10.) Section 9884.9, in particular, provides that an automotive repair dealer “shall give to the customer a written estimated price for labor and parts necessary for a specific job. No work shall be done and no charges shall accrue before authorization to proceed is obtained from the customer.” (§ 9884.9, subd. (a).) The statute further specifies the information that must be contained in the written estimate, who may give authorization to perform the work, and the steps the dealer must take if the estimated price is insufficient. (Id., subds. (a)-(d).)

The Automotive Repair Act created within the Department of Consumer Affairs the Bureau of Automotive Repair. (§ 9882, subd. (a).) Automotive repair dealers are required to register with the Bureau. (§§ 9884.2, 9884.6, subd. (a).) Failure to register is a misdemeanor (§ 9889.20), and unregistered dealers are precluded from suing on a contract for vehicle repairs (§ 9884.16).

In addition to overseeing dealer registration, the Bureau is responsible for enforcement of the Automotive Repair Act.[8] (§ 9882, subd. (a).) To fulfill this duty, the Bureau is authorized to investigate, on its own initiative or in response to complaints, violations of the act. (§ 9882.5.) To that end, the Bureau is required to establish procedures for accepting complaints from the public against any dealer. (Ibid.) When a dealer is alleged to have committed a violation, the Bureau may suggest measures to compensate for any damages suffered. (Ibid.) If the dealer “accepts the suggestions and performs accordingly, such fact shall be given due consideration in any subsequent disciplinary proceeding.” (Ibid.)

The Bureau is also authorized to pursue criminal, civil, and administrative penalties and remedies in response to violations of the act. It is a misdemeanor to violate many provisions of the act, including section 9884.9, and the Bureau is authorized to file charges with a district or city attorney. (§§ 9884.15, 9889.20.) The Bureau may also seek in the superior court an injunction or other appropriate order restraining the dealer from committing violations. (§ 9884.14.) In addition, the Bureau may issue a citation, and suspend or revoke the dealer’s registration. (§§ 9882, subd. (a), 9884.7, subd. (a)(6), 9884.22.)

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