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Thursday, 21 October 2010 16:30

Houston PD Drafts an Auto Repair Record-Keeping Ordinance Featured

The Houston Police Department has been drafting a new city ordinance with the help of the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA) aiming to protect consumers from body shops overcharging or charging for work that hasn’t been done to vehicles.

According to Sergeant Michael Provost, of Houston Police Department Vehicular Crimes Division, Houston has no regulations when it comes to automotive repair facilities and this has caused problems for consumers—especially those whose vehicles are coming directly from the accident scene while an owner is taken to the hospital.

Provost researched automotive repair facility record-keeping requirements in California, Michigan and Florida before drafting this city ordinance which he hopes will be successful enough in Houston to eventually be taken to the state level.

“I think we’ve come up with a pretty good draft,” said Provost.

Provost has been working on this bill since February of this year and has met with 70 to 80 companies and body shops.

When asked by Autobody News how this bill would affect local body shops, Provost said, “It will probably slow down the process a little bit.”

Part of the bill requires body shops to have work orders signed by vehicle owners before any work can be performed, which could significantly slow down the cycle time for shops that have vehicles whose owners are hospitalized after a crash.

Although this measure could gum up some things for body shops, Provost said it all came down to consumer protection in drafting this bill.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt business at all,” said Provost.

The Houston ordinance, number 8-22, is titled “Automotive repair facility display and recordkeeping requirements” and also aims to erradicate confusion among body shops when it comes to record-keeping requirements relating to estimates, customer consent to use aftermarket parts and to subcontract labor.

Houston PD and HABA have their final draft of this ordinance done, and hope to have the final draft through HPD’s legal department in the coming weeks.

Once the ordinance’s drafting is complete there will be a public hearing and the bill will go before the transportation committee for public comment before the full city council votes on it.

The full text of the ordinance is as  follows:

“8-22. Automotive repair facility display and recordkeeping requirements.
(a)  An automotive repair facility shall prominently display and have available for inspection the following documentation, in the common areas of its business premises:
(1) A valid and current automotive repair facility license;
(2)  A valid certificate of occupancy;
(3)  A repair estimate form;
(4) All labor and storage costs;
(5)  If applicable, a certificate of registration; and
(6) If applicable, a storage lot license.
(b) An automotive repair facility shall be required to maintain a record of each repair estimate and final invoice provided to a vehicle owner or authorized agent for two years following the date such estimate is provided to the vehicle owner or authorized agent. 
(c)  If the repair work performed on a motor vehicle will exceed $100, the automotive repair facility shall obtain the vehicle owner’s or the authorized agent’s signature or a facsimile or electronic signature thereof on a repair estimate prior to initiating any repair on the motor vehicle. 
(d)  A repair estimate, or attachments thereto, prepared pursuant to this section shall contain the following information:
(1) The name, address and telephone number of the automotive repair facility;
(2) The name, address and telephone number of the vehicle owner and of any authorized agent identified by the vehicle owner;
(3) The date and time of the estimate;
(4) The year, make, model, odometer reading and license plate number of the motor vehicle;
(5) The estimated number of days to complete the authorized repairs;
(6) A description of the vehicle owner’s or authorized agent’s request for repairs to or concerns about the motor vehicle;
(7) The estimated labor charges based on a flat rate, an hourly rate, or a combination of the two;
(8) An itemized estimate of the repair costs;
(9) Charges for shop supplies or for hazardous or other waste removal;
(10) Charges for daily storage of the motor vehicle;
(11) The terms of any parts and service guarantees; and
(12) A space for an initialed notation indicating whether the vehicle owner or authorized agent requests the return of replacement parts.  The automotive repair facility shall return replacement parts to the vehicle owner or authorized agent within a period of time not to exceed five business days from the date of a request made pursuant to this provision.
(e)  In the event that the cost of repairs exceeds the total amount of the estimate authorized by the vehicle owner or authorized agent pursuant to this section, then prior to completing such repairs, the automotive repair facility shall obtain written approval (which may be in electronic or facsimile form) from the vehicle owner or an authorized agent.
(f)  It shall be unlawful for any automotive repair facility or employee thereof to:
(1) Make repairs or charge for repairs that have not been expressly authorized in writing (which may be in electronic or facsimile form) by the vehicle owner or an authorized agent;
(2) Misrepresent the condition of a motor vehicle;
(3) Misrepresent that repairs have been made to a motor vehicle;
(4) Misrepresent that certain parts and repairs are necessary to repair a motor vehicle;
(5) Misrepresent that the motor vehicle being inspected or diagnosed is in a dangerous condition or that the vehicle owner’s continued use of the motor vehicle may be harmful or cause great damage to the motor vehicle;
(6) Fraudulently alter any vehicle owner contract, estimate, invoice, or other document;
(7) Fraudulently misuse any vehicle owner’s credit card or credit card information;
(8) Make or authorize in any manner or by any means a written or oral statement which is untrue, deceptive or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue, deceptive or misleading;
(9) Make false promises of a character likely to influence, persuade, or induce a vehicle owner to authorize the repair, service, or maintenance of a motor vehicle;
(10) Substitute used, rebuilt, salvaged, or straightened parts for new replacement parts without notice to the vehicle owner and to the vehicle owner’s insurer if the cost of repair is to be paid pursuant to an insurance policy and the identity of the insurer or its claims adjuster is disclosed to the automotive repair facility;
(11) Cause or allow a vehicle owner to sign any repair estimate that does not itemize the repairs requested by the vehicle owner or include the motor vehicle’s odometer reading at the time of repair;
(12) Fail to provide a vehicle owner a copy of any document requiring the vehicle owner’s or authorized agent’s signature upon completion or cancellation of the repair work;
(13) Subcontract repair work without the knowledge or consent of the vehicle owner unless the automotive repair facility or employee thereof demonstrates that the vehicle owner could not reasonably have been notified;
(14) Conduct the business of motor vehicle repair in a location other than that     stated on the automotive repair facility license; or
(15) Rebuild or restore a rebuilt motor vehicle without the knowledge of the vehicle owner in such a manner that it does not conform to the original motor vehicle manufacturer’s established repair procedures or specifications and allowable tolerances for the particular model and year, unless first obtaining a written acknowledgment and waiver of this requirement that is signed by the vehicle owner or an authorized agent.
(g)  It shall be unlawful for any authorized agent or employee thereof to commit any act prohibited by Section 1952.302 of the Texas Insurance Code in connection with the repair of damage to a motor vehicle covered under an automobile insurance policy.
(h)  Any record required to be maintained under this section shall be kept in written book form or in an electronic recordkeeping system.”

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