Developing best practices for your business is essential to avoiding unnecessary liability and consumer initiated claims against you. As part of that process, repair and service shop owners need to become familiar with the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act ("CSPA"). The CSPA requires motor vehicle repair and service providers to comply with specific and detailed requirements.
The CSPA prohibits certain businesses from engaging in unfair and unconscionable acts. Under the CSPA, motor vehicle repair and service are covered by Ohio Administrative Code Section 109:4-3-13. That section defines what is considered "unfair" and "unconscionable." If in the process of providing a consumer a motor vehicle repair or service, a shop commits any act that is considered unfair or unconscionable under this section, a consumer may initiate a suit to recover damages, treble damages, attorneys' fees and costs.
To evidence the detailed requirements, two examples of the CSPA requirements, "Estimate Choice Form" and postage of "Notice" Signage, are provided below.
Estimate Choice Form
Generally, for repairs or any service to a motor vehicle where (1) the anticipated costs exceeds fifty dollars and (2) a face to face meeting between the repair or service shop and the customer has taken place, the repair or service shop must provide the customer with a form and have the customer initial before proceeding on any repairs.
Specifically, the form must include the:
1) The date;
2) The identity of the repair/service shop;
3) The consumer's name and telephone number;
4) The reasonable completion date;
5) A clear and conspicuous disclosure that states:
"Estimate: You have the right to an estimate if the expected cost of repairs or services will be more than fifty dollars. Initial choice:
___ written estimate
___ oral estimate
___ no estimate;" and
6) An estimate of the cost of repairs, if an estimate is requested.
When a customer requests a written or oral estimate, the estimate must be given to the customer before commencing repairs. Failing to do so is a violation of the CSPA.
Repair/service providers are also required to notify customers of their rights. Repair/service providers must provide this notice by either posting a sign in a conspicuous place or giving the customer a separate form. The notice must clearly and conspicuously state:
If the expected cost of a repair or service is more than fifty dollars, you have the right to receive a written estimate, oral estimate, or you can choose to receive no estimate before we begin work. Your bill will not be higher than the estimate by more than ten per cent unless you approve a larger amount before repairs are finished. Ohio law requires us to give you a form so that you can choose either a written, oral, or no estimate."
The Estimate Choice Form and Conspicuous Notice are but two of the long list of repair and service shop requirements. To learn more about other CSPA requirements, or to discuss strategies in defending against consumer claims, please contact Jennifer R. Roberts at Coolidge Wall Co., L.P.A. at 937-449-5770.