Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shops gear up for auto-repair rules

Industry, consumer reps welcome requirement to quote, return parts

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New rules that compel auto-repair shops to give written estimates and secure customer permission take effect July 1.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

New rules that compel auto-repair shops to give written estimates and secure customer permission take effect July 1. Photo Store

New rules on how vehicle-repair shops must deal with customers have delighted both repair shops and consumer watch organizations.

The new rules, announced Monday by provincial Healthy Living, Seniors, and Consumer Affairs Minister Jim Rondeau, take effect July 1 and will protect Manitobans from unauthorized repairs, cheap parts and overcharging.

The announcement was made at Tony's Academy Auto Service, a River Heights shop that has been in business under owner Tony Pesce for 34 years.

"I can completely and with confidence say the majority of the auto repair industry welcome and embrace the new rules and regulations enacted by Bill 12. It will only enhance the relationships between the public and the repair facility," Pesce said.

'In taking what many businesses already do, we have raised the bar'

-- Healthy Living, Seniors, and Consumer Affairs Minister Jim Rondeau

"In our industry, as in any industry, there's always a few bad apples that tarnish the reputation or respectability of the mass. I'm proud of the auto industry I belong to and I can say with certainty that the majority of repair facilities operate with the highest level of integrity, professionalism and honest business practices."

Rondeau said the new rules will give Manitobans clear and fair treatment in all repair shops.

"In taking what many businesses already do, we have raised the bar," Rondeau said. "This will ensure that all people have incorporated best practices into their businesses."

Erickson Motors has been in business for 48 years and has been issuing written estimates since 1976.

"I think the new rules are good," said president Harold Erickson. "We introduced that (written estimates and approval) with the idea that repairs were getting more expensive all the time and people need to know what it is going to cost them. There's a lot less confrontation when everybody knows up front and ahead of time what it's going to be. It's good business practice," he said.

Erickson noted there is an environmental concern over the requirement to return old parts to the customer if requested.

"A lot of the stuff has grease and oil and other fluids in there that really should be disposed of properly," he said.

Gloria Desorcy, executive director of the Consumers' Association of Canada, said the new rules are "a positive step forward."

"It's excellent that (car-repair) companies are going to be putting up a sign letting consumers know what their rights are," Desorcy said. "Like every piece of new legislation and regulation, it always remains to be seen how this rolls out. We will be watching to see if there is going to be effective monitoring and if the complaint process for consumers will be straightforward."

The new rules will open lines of communication between repair shops and customers, said Amaro Silva, chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Manitoba.

"Generally, the disputes we see are typically misunderstandings between a business and a consumer," Silva said. "By this requiring things to be in writing, it is going to create more of a level playing field where everyone knows what their responsibilities are. People are going to not rely upon expectations -- they're going to rely upon something in writing and there's going to be less in the way of marketplace disputes."

But Silva said it's unlikely this will end issues between consumers and the automotive-repair industry.

"I'm sure there will still be problems but that's what we're here for," Silva said.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Do the new rules governing auto repairs put too much onus on honest mechanics in the name of controlling the few unscrupulous ones? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 A4

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Updated on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 6:45 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds question for discussion

7:41 AM: adds fact box

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