We all dread hopping into our car and it doesn’t start.
It recently happened to Joshua Bane, with the repair costing thousands of dollars and exposing an issue that could also cost others: whether shops need written consent to go through with vehicle repairs.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’ll give it a couple of minutes, and I’ll try it again.’ Still didn’t start,” he said.
So Bane had his 10-year-old Range Rover Evoque towed in for repair. The shop later texted him the cost of the diagnosis and a new starter: roughly $3,300.
“We went into our savings, but it was something that needed to be done,” Bane said.
He texted the shop that he approved the repairs. But when the starter was fixed, the shop found an emissions issue – the car was running, but it wouldn’t pass a smog check. That additional repair would cost about $3,000 more.
“I was like, ‘I need to talk with my partner about this issue before we go ahead. Is that OK?’ The answer was yes,” Bane said.
He said he never approved the new repairs but later received a text from the shop that said the car was fixed and ready to go. Bane’s new repair bill: $6,000.
“Flabbergasted. It actually kind of ruined my day at work,” he said.
Bane disputed the bill, pointing out to the shop that he didn’t give them written approval for the new repairs, but the shop said it didn’t need that and that Bane had verbally approved them.
Dave Skaien, a car repair expert for AAA, said verbal approval – at that point – is OK.
“That’s a very legal, appropriate, well-documented method to provide approval,” he said.
Skaien said when you first take your car in for repair, the shop must give you a written estimate, and you must give a written approval. If additional repairs or costs pop up, the shop needs to let you know before it moves forward, but your written approval isn’t required; you can verbally give permission.
Skaien said that’s designed for your convenience “because somebody may not have the ability to communicate via email or text. Maybe they’re technology challenged or they’re older. You never know,” he said.
But Skaien said the shop should document the date and time it received your verbal approval.
If you want to avoid a situation like Bane’s, Skaien has some advice.
“When somebody provides you follow-up information, looking for additional authorization, if you don’t want to provide it verbally, ask them to send you an email or text,” he said.
The I-Team reached out to Bane’s repair shop. It couldn’t provide any documentation that Bane verbally approved the additional repairs, so it dropped all the charges for the second set of repairs, nearly $3,000.