Michigan's Motor Vehicle Service & Repair Act
Have you ever taken your car to a repair shop for a quick oil change, tire rotation or other routine maintenance and repairs only to get the vehicle back in a worse condition than when you dropped it off? If so, the Motor Vehicle Service & Repair Act (MVSRA) may provide you relief. The act provides a means of legal redress against motor vehicle repair facilities that perform negligent repairs or engage in unfair and deceptive practices. Relief can include compensation for the consumer’s damages, a bar on mechanic’s lien or similar lien, as well as an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs.
The statute applies to any person who suffered “damage or injury” as a result of a repair facility’s violation of the act or as a result of “an unfair or deceptive method, act, or practice.” MCL 257.1336. An unfair and deceptive practice under the act includes performing repairs negligently or incompetently. Hengartner v Chet Swanson Sales, Inc, 132 Mich App 751, 755, 348 NW2d 15 (1984).
Who Is A “Motor Vehicle Repair Facility” Under The Act?
A motor vehicle repair facility is a facility that for compensation, is engaged in the business of performing, or employs individuals who perform, maintenance, diagnosis, vehicle body work, repair service, or breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) service on a motor vehicle for compensation. MCL 257.1302(j). The act also applies to a “person who directly or indirectly controls a motor vehicle repair facility or its employees, as well as a general partner, officer, or director of the facility,” and who are jointly and severally liable for a violation of the MVSRA. MCL 257.1337(2).
The act does not apply to gasoline service stations that are only engaged in the business of selling motor fuel and lubricants. However, persons or facilities (including gas stations) that perform minor services, such as changing or installing of light bulbs, tires, lamp globes, batteries, air filters, oil filters, windshield wiper blades, fan or power assist belts or lubrication or oil changes are considered motor vehicle repair facilities subject to the act. MCL 257.1303.
Prohibited Conduct Under the Motor Vehicle Service And Repair Act:
Under the MVSRA, a motor vehicle repair facility shall not:
- Charge for repairs that are not actually performed
- Perform unnecessary repairs, unless the customer insists after being advised that the repair is unnecessary
- Represent, directly or indirectly, that repairs are necessary when they are not
- Perform and charge for repairs that are not specifically authorized
- Fail to perform promised repairs within the period of time agreed, or within a reasonable time, unless circumstances beyond the control of the facility prevent the timely performance of the repairs and the facility did not have reason to know of those circumstances at the time the contract was made
- Represent, either directly or indirectly, that a replacement part used is new or of a particular manufacture when in fact it is used, rebuilt, reconditioned, deteriorated, or of a different manufacture
- Fail to disclose in writing, before beginning a repair, the use of used, rebuilt, or reconditioned parts
- Subsequent to a diagnosis requested by a customer for which a charge is made, fail to disclose a diagnosed or suspected malfunction, the recommended remedy for the malfunction, and any test, analysis, or other procedure employed to determine the malfunction
- Fail to give the customer a written estimate before beginning work on a motor vehicle
- Charge for work done or parts supplied in excess of the estimated price without the knowing consent, orally or in writing, of the customer
- Fail to give a customer an estimate for the cost, if any, of reassembly, disassembly, or diagnosis
- Fail to inform a customer, at a time before the customer executes a document or engages the facility for the work of his or her right to receive or inspect replaced parts for which he or she will be charged in the repair of his or her motor vehicle
- Fail to retain a customer waiver with the records retained by the facility concerning the transaction
- Charge a customer storage charges if there is a dispute concerning repair charges. If a delay in repairs is caused by a lack of parts, a facility may charge for storage after informing the customer of the approximate length of the anticipated delay and of the daily storage charge rate and obtaining the customer's consent to the delay and the storage charges
- Fail to comply with the truth in lending act and the retail installment sales act if the customer finances repairs through the facility
- Fail in practice to comply with advertised or stated payment policies
- Conspire with another to fix prices
- Conspire with another to allocate the market between them
- Fail to notify a customer of an exchange agreement and charges for exchange parts if the customer wishes to have those parts returned
- Fail to disclose, on the customer's request, the method used by a facility to compute labor charges
While not an exhaustive list, the above contains much of conduct prohibited by the act. Many other prohibited practices under the act are also contained in the Michigan Administrative Code, AC,R 257.101 et seq.
The MVSRA also regulates a repair facility’s advertisements and representations to consumers (See MCL 257.1307c) as well as contains provisions regarding the handling of warranties including the implied warranty of merchantability, fitness for use, and express warranties (See MCL 257.1307b).
The act also prohibits a facility from imposing or seeking to enforce a mechanic’s lien or similar lien or seek repossession of the vehicle if the facility has violated the act with respect to the transaction upon which the lien or repossession is based. MCL 257.1307d. Additionally, the facility cannot seek to retain the customer’s vehicle if there is a dispute and the customer has paid the amount of the written estimate and any amount in excess agreed to by the customer. Id.
Damages Available Under The Motor Vehicle Service And Repair Act
MCL 257.1336 provides that “a facility that violates this act is liable as provided in this act, to a person that suffers damage or injury as a result of that violation, in an amount equal to the damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs. If the damage or injury to the person occurs as the result of a willful and flagrant violation of this act, the person shall recover double the damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs from the facility.”
Damages can include recoupment of amounts paid to the repair facility, damages for out-of-pocket expenses related to the violation, damages for the loss of use of the vehicle, rental car expenses, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs. Since the monetary value of damages in these cases may be small, the statute allows for an award of attorney fees. To do otherwise would leave consumers without complete legal redress and hinder an attorney’s ability to effectively represent their client. If the plaintiff can prove that the repair facilities’ conduct was willful and flagrant, he or she would be entitled to an award of double damages plus reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Additional Requirements for Motor Vehicle Repair Facilities
The act requires that all repair facilities must have at least one specialty or master mechanic that is certified in each category of repair the facility provides. Additionally, any work concerning a major service or repair performed by a non-certified mechanic must be inspected and approved by a mechanic who is certified in that specialty. Only a voluntary and knowing waiver by the customer can do away with these requirements. MCL 257.1305. Furthermore, all motor vehicle repair facilities must be properly registered before engaging in the business of repairing vehicles. MCL 257.1306.