Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:42

Michigan Lawmaker Proposes Crackdown on Unlicensed Auto Repair Shops

A senior citizen who lives in State Representative Harvey Santana’s district contacted a local media Consumer Investigator Unit called “Ruth to the Rescue” to complain that he had taken his car to a shop in West Detroit, MI, and has since “been stranded for five months.” 82-year-old James Fails said he used the repair shop known as Domestic and Import Auto at 9900 Greenfield in Detroit, MI. Fails said his car was never the same afterward, and he’s suing the facility to get his engine replaced. The Detroit grandfather’s family was shocked to learn the shop’s license had expired.

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“I just shake my head to still see them open,” Fails granddaughter told Ruth to the Rescue.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that this senior citizen, who is a grandfather and lives on a fixed income, doesn’t have to go through the experience he just went through,” Santana told Ruth to the Rescue.

Ruth Spencer visited the garage and owner Ali Beydoun admitted in March 2014, that he didn’t have a valid license. Beydoun told Spencer that he would be getting his license renewed very soon.

The Democrat decided something must be done. He’s now working with several interested parties to create legislation that would fine repair shops that do not have a license. The proposal would call for a $5,000 fine for the first offense and $7,500 for every offense that follows.

“What bothered me is the license ranges from $50 to $500 a year on a sliding scale, so why not just play by the rules and get it?” said State Representative Santana.

What about the shop on Greenfield road?

As Ruth to the Rescue started working on the story of this legislative proposal, they wondered if Mr. Beydoun had followed through on his promise to get his licensed renewed. The consumer unit checked with the Secretary of State and found the garage at 9900 Greenfield was still not licensed. Spencer went back to the garage.

The owner, once again, admitted his garage isn’t licensed, “That is true. And, I haven’t had it cause I’m selling the place,” said Beydoun.

While he told Spencer he was selling his garage, he admitted that process could take months and there is another reason he doesn’t have a license.

“The reason I’m not renewing it is because I don’t have the money to renew anything right now.”

License equals consumer protection

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) says its important for auto repair shops to be licensed. Among other things, licensed facilities are required to have certified mechanics trained for specific types of repairs. With unlicensed facilities, you don’t know what level of expertise you’ll receive.

“People who are doing work unlicensed are doing the consumers an injustice,” said local garage owner Larry Dragan. He proudly displays his facility’s license and the certificates of the mechanics he employs.

Santana’s proposed bill has Dragan’s support, and the support of the ASA. “We need to do this for consumers. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the time to do it,” said Ray Fisher, president of the ASA of Michigan.

“I’m just glad that Ruth to the Rescue came out and investigated this. Now we know we have an obligation to do better, now that we know more,” said State Representative Santana.

How To Know If Your Garage Is Licensed

Going to an unlicensed mechanic is something that could happen to anyone. Melanie Duquesnel, the CEO of the Better Business Bureau, said it’s easy to spot an unlicensed mechanic, if you know where to look.

“There should be licenses on the wall with the names of the people that are going to be touching your car,” she said.

If this story makes you nervous about your next trip to an auto repair shop, keep these guidelines in mind.

  • A licensed shops should have that certification on display, as well as licenses for the mechanics working at that garage. You should be able to see the paperwork posted in the shop.
  • You can go to the website of the Secretary of State’s office to make sure a business is licensed.
  • You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the facility has had previous complaints, and how they were handled.
  • You are always entitled to a written estimate (for repairs that cost more than $20) that will spell out the cost of parts, estimate time of repair, and cost of labor.
  • Once given a target time for completion, you should check on the status of your car before that time arrives. Most reputable garages will call you, but you should check the progress, and the repairs can take unexpected turns and you may need to authorize further expenses.
  • When in doubt, ask around and visit a garage that has glowing references from more than one person.
  • You are entitled to see parts that are removed and replaced on your car.

If you’d like to do more research on car repair facilities, visit the consumer website affiliated with the ASA of Michigan.