Auto Repair Shops To Fund Consumer Outreach Effort

Attorney General Spitzer today announced settlements with nearly seventy auto repair shops throughout the state that failed to properly notify consumers about the way labor charges were calculated.

"State regulations require auto shops to post information about labor costs, but our investigation found that most were not complying with this obligation," Spitzer said. "The shops have now agreed to post appropriate notices and fund a consumer education campaign."

"This outreach campaign will educate consumers about important ways to comparison shop for auto mechanic services and how to protect themselves against unnecessary repair costs."

New York State regulations require auto repair shops to post a sign providing the shop's policy on billing for labor costs. Repair shops have two alternatives: to compute labor charges based upon on actual time or using a flat rate based upon the industry manual.

The sweep concluded that only 12 percent of auto repair shops were in full compliance with the law and that the vast majority failed to post one or more of the several signs required by law.

As a result of the investigation, the repair shops will contribute $500 each to a statewide consumer awareness initiative, totaling $34,500.

In the lower Hudson Valley region, the following two repair shops agreed to contribute to the awareness campaign: Mavis Discount Tire in Larchmont; and Midas in Nyack.

The consumer awareness campaign will consist of advertisements to be published in local newspapers to inform the public of their rights upon hiring an automobile mechanic. These advertisements will explain that under state law automobile repair shops are required to disclose how they compute labor costs and to post a sign which displays this information.

The advertisements will also include suggestions to consumers such as getting a written estimate from the mechanic before repairs are commenced and checking the estimate to verify that it explains how labor costs will be computed.

"Informed consumers make better choices," Spitzer said.

Individuals with complaints about auto repair shops are encouraged to contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Vehicle Safety Consumer Services Section at (518) 474-8943 or call the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Gary Brown with the assistance of Investigator Lee Meggett of the Westchester Regional Office.