Monday, 05 February 2007 13:01

BAR restarts program to investigate repairs

In an effort to protect consumers and monitor the work of the body shop, BAR has enlisted an auto body inspection program to examine collision repairs in California.  Car owners who have been in an accident and had their cars repaired are eligible for a free inspection administered by BAR field representatives. The vehicle is examined for repairs performed properly and in accordance with what is listed on the consumer’s invoice.

The CAA is working as part of the BAR advisory group to ensure that this program is fair and equitable for both the consumer and collision repair facility.

“The basic reason for doing this is it’s a basic tool for consumers to find out if they got what they are paying for. It also gives BAR the opportunity to see if shops are keeping up with acceptable trade standards,” said Glenn Mason, information officer at the Department of Consumer Affairs.

 Senator Jackie Speier first implemented this program as a 2-year pilot that concluded in 2003. The results of the pilot were submitted to the legislature in a published report.

 “These inspections revealed that 551 (or 42%) of the 1,315 vehicles had parts and/or labor that were billed for but not provided. These 551 vehicles averaged $811.93 worth of parts and/or labor billed for but not provided. Evidence gained by BAR from these inspections led BAR to open up a large number of automotive repair fraud investigations,” the report concluded.

Of those 551 vehicles, complaints were filed and body shops awarded $536,113.87 of restitution in the form of refunds, rework and adjustments to pending bills.
To participate in the program, the consumer calls a toll-free number to make an appointment. On the scheduled day, the BAR inspector travels to the consumer’s home or office to examine the vehicle. If the examination yields questionable repairs, or does not match the invoice, the BAR inspector will follow-up with the body shop, and the consumer will have the option of filing a complaint.

Sherry Mehl, the new BAR chief, re-instated this program. A few differences from the pilot are that the results of the findings will not be published, there is no communication with the legislature, and this program is not temporary.

There will be brochures distributed to inform the public of this program, in addition to press releases and content on the BAR website. For more information on this program, call the BAR toll-free at (866) 799-3811 or visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.