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John Yoswick

John YoswickJohn Yoswick is a freelance automotive writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the collision industry since 1988. He is the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit www.CrashNetwork.com).


He can be contacted at john@crashnetwork.com 

Tuesday, 04 May 2021 21:31

Regulator Stresses Need for Documented Collision Repair Customer Authorization, Updates

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The California Bureau of Automotive Repair offers an example of an acceptable electronic customer authorization if an in-person signature cannot be obtained. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair offers an example of an acceptable electronic customer authorization if an in-person signature cannot be obtained.

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Though the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) does not have jurisdiction over auto body shops beyond the more than 4,000 in the Golden State, some information shared by BAR Chief Patrick Dorais in a recent webinar could be instructive to shops elsewhere as well.

Dorais said his agency, which also oversees about 31,000 dealerships, mechanical shops and smog check stations, receives about 17,000 consumer complaints a year---though not surprisingly, many fewer this past year during the pandemic. Generally only about 1,000 of those involve body shops, Dorais said.

 

“In about a third of those complaints in the auto body area, consumers are alleging either that the shop made false or misleading statements, or they failed to obtain the customer’s authorization,” he said. “Consumers are commonly reporting to us that they feel misled about the length of time for the repairs, and not having any understanding of what was being done to their vehicles. Those are the kinds of things we commonly see in our complaints.”

 

Though few states have a regulatory body like the BAR overseeing the industry, most have consumer protection laws requiring customer authorization for repairs, so ensuring such authorizations are well documented could reduce---or at least counter---many consumer complaints.

 

The BAR’s “Write It Right” guide for shops was updated two years ago to indicate electronic authorization is permitted, even offering a screenshot of what a text authorization should look like.

 

Status updates sent to customers via email or text can also provide good documentation---provided they are saved by the shop---to counter many consumer complaints.

 

“We may come to you, saying the customer is saying this, here’s what they’re alleging,” Dorais said during the webinar. “As a shop owner or manager, you can say, ‘No, we’ve got something that tells a different story, and here’s my proof.’ That’s really important to preserve that document.”

 

Those outside California might also take note of the BAR’s prohibition on page 7 of the “Write It Right” document on the use of such part descriptions.

 

“Each new replacement crash part listed in an autobody or collision repair estimate must be...


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