The Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5-1, et seq., provides certain rights and protections to consumers having cars or other items repaired. Although many of the provisions of the Act could apply to car repairs, there are four provisions that are specifically relevant to car repairs.
If a mechanic charges substantially more for a repair than estimated, it could be a deceptive act. To establish a deceptive act, Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5-3(b)(12) requires four facts to exist:
The cost of the repair exceeded the estimate by an amount equal to or greater than 10 percent of the estimate.
The mechanic did not obtain written permission from the customer to complete the work in the event that the cost exceeded the estimate by more than 10 percent.
The total cost of the repair was more than $750.00.
The mechanic knew or reasonably should have known that the repair cost would exceed the estimate by more than 10 percent. The mechanic must provide the estimate before commencing the work, and the estimate must be in writing and itemized as closely as possible to the price of labor and parts. Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5–3(f).
Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5-3(b)(5) provides that it is a deceptive act to represent that a replacement or repair is needed if it is not and the mechanic knows or should know it is not needed.
It is also a deceptive act to engage in a replacement or repair if the consumer has not authorized the replacement or repair and the mechanic knows or should reasonably know that it is not authorized. Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5-3(b)(14). The cost of the labor and parts is a frequent source of car repair disputes. The cost for some repair work may be covered by a warranty on the car and its parts or by a service contract obtained with the purchase of the car.
However, the warranties and service contracts may be subject to limitations, including time, mileage, deductibles, businesses authorized to perform warranty work or special procedures required to obtain reimbursement. There is no standard warranty for car repairs. You should get any warranties on repairs or parts in writing from the mechanic. Nonetheless, if a mechanic makes a false representation, either orally or in writing, relating to a warranty, it could constitute a deceptive act. Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5-3(b)(8).
Indiana law allows a mechanic to keep a car if the repair bill is not paid, even if the bill is in dispute, if the mechanic has properly filed a notice of intention to hold a lien. Mechanics have a lien for their reasonable charges for repair work. The mechanic must file a notice of intention to hold a lien in the Recorder’s office of the county where the repair was performed within 60 days after the work is finished. The notice must set forth the amount claimed and give a substantial description of the car. To foreclose the lien and sell the car, the mechanic must sue in a court of the county where the car is located within one year from the recording of the notice of intention to hold the lien. Ind. Code § 32-33-10-1, et seq.
This guide is not legal advice but is for general information purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading this guide.