August 18, 2020

Do auto repair shops have to disclose diagnostic fees up-front?

Dear Consumer Ed:

I dropped my car off for an estimate at the repair shop, and they want to charge me an $80 diagnostic fee. They never disclosed this fee beforehand. Is this legal?

Consumer Ed says:

There is no Georgia law that requires businesses to disclose diagnostic fees before providing auto repair estimates. Some repair shops charge a fee for estimates because car owners often visit multiple shops for estimates before committing to one for the actual repair work.

However, businesses need to comply with their own stated policies on how fees will be assessed. If a business does not have a disclosed policy on how fees will be assessed, then it could charge for a diagnostic service, even if it does not disclose this fee before service.

In the future, there are several precautions that you can take when getting your car repaired:

  • Ask about diagnostic charges prior to getting a price estimate.
  • Ask for a written price estimate before you authorize repairs.
  • Ask if repairs are guaranteed and get the guarantees in writing.
  • Research the mechanic and repair shop using the Better Business Bureau, online search engines, and friends and family.
  • Get several estimates from different repair shops.

A written price estimate should identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge. Make sure you get a signed copy. It should state that the shop will contact you for approval before they do any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money.

If you believe you have been the victim of auto repair fraud, report it to your local Better Business Bureau and to the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 404-651-8600 or 800-869-1123.

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

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