5 On Your Side

Woman Contacts Five On Your Side Over Expensive Auto Repair Bill

Posted May 30, 2006

— Five On Your Side gets complaints about car repairs all the time. Many can be avoided and

N.C. Motor Vehicle Repair Act

can help. It can keep you from being hit with an unexpectedly high bill when you pick up your car after a repair. But as one woman found out, it does not protect against miscommunication.

Tiffany Cogdell's 1993 Honda Accord gets her to where she's going. In March, she dropped it off at Precision Tune on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh for a transmission leak. The manager then called to say replacing the transmission could cost as much as $3,000.

"I was like, 'No, you know that's way too much to put into my car,'" she said.

So both parties agreed the mechanic would just fix the leak. When she picked up the car, the bill was $927.

"I told him that he never communicated a price to me. But he said that he did," Cogdell said." I said, 'No,' because I never would have had all this work put into my car because I don't even know that it was worth that much."

Cogdell paid the bill, then called Five on Your Side.

North Carolina's Motor Vehicle Repair Act is supposed to keep similar situations from happening. It requires a written estimate for any repair over $350.

Kelly Clark, an attorney with North Carolina Legal Aid, however, said there are exceptions.

Clark said once a person agrees to get their vehicle checked out, the shop can just call and get verbal approval to do more work, which may leave room for miscommunication.

"What it gets down to in some cases where this is what they say, and this is what you say, the question is how do you prove this?" Clark said.

That is what happened to Cogdell. Precision Tune said Cogdell agreed to the $927 charge when she was called. However, Cogdell denies that.

That is why Five On Your Side suggests getting as much as you can in writing when you take your car in for repair. On the initial paperwork, clearly specify in writing that you want a written estimate before any work is done. If you forget to do that, you can still protect yourself when they call for authorization.

"You can say, 'Fax me something showing me what the repairs are in writing, and I'll sign off on it if I agree,'" Clark said.

In a written statement, the president of the company that operates the Atlantic Avenue Precision Tune said his employees "did nothing wrong" and "in fact, did everything right."

After Five On Your Side's involvement, Precision Tune offered Cogdell a refund, but only if it did not air a story about the situation, in order to "avoid unfair, negative publicity."


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