CHAPTER 428

FORMERLY

SENATE BILL NO. 372

AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 6 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO MOTOR VEHICLE REPAIRS.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. This Act shall be referred to as "The Auto Repair Fraud Prevention Act of 1996."

Section 2. Amend Subtitle II, Title 6 of the Delaware Code by inserting a new Chapter 49A to follow Chapter 49, to read as follows:

"CHAPTER 49A. AUTO REPAIR FRAUD PREVENTION

§ 4901A. Purpose.

The purpose of this Act is to safeguard the public against fraudulent auto repair practices thereby enhancing public confidence in legitimate auto repair facilities and mechanics.

§ 4902A. Definitions.

For the purposes of this Chapter, the following definitions shall apply:

(a) 'Automotive repair facility' means any person who performs auto repair work on a motor vehicle for financial profit.

(b) 'Motor vehicle' is as defined by 21 Del C § 101(20).

(c) 'Person' includes an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, association, two or more persons having a joint or common interest, or any other legal or commercial entity.

(d) 'Auto repair work' means performing or attempting to perform repairs and/or maintenance on a motor vehicle for financial profit.

(e) 'Pattern of violations' means three (3) or more violations within a one-year period.

§ 4903A. Unlawful Practices.

(a) Deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact with the intent that others rely upon such concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with auto repair work by any automotive repair facility, whether or not any person has in fact been misled, deceived, or damaged thereby, or the act, use, or employment by any auto repair facility of a deceptive trade practice in connection with auto repair work shall constitute an unlawful practice.

(a) Acts or practices by an automotive repair facility prohibited by subsection (a) shall include but are not limited to:

(1) Refusing to return a customer's motor vehicle because the customer refused to pay for unauthorized auto repair work in violation of § 4907A of this Chapter;

(2) Misrepresenting that auto repair work has been made to a motor vehicle;

(2) Misrepresenting that auto repair work is necessary to a motor vehicle repair;

(3) Misrepresenting that the motor vehicle is in a dangerous condition or that the customer's continued use of the vehicle may be harmful or cause significant damage to the vehicle;

(3) Misrepresenting that the motor vehicle will or will not pass state inspection requirements or is not otherwise in compliance with state or federal requirements in connection with soliciting auto repair work;

(4) Performing unauthorized auto repair work in connection with a misrepresentation;

(5) Fraudulently altering any customer contract, estimate, invoice, or other document;

(6) Fraudulently misusing a customer's credit card; or

(7) engaging in a pattern of violations of §§ 4904A, 4905A, 4906A, or 4907A or violating §§ 4904A, 4905A, 4906A or 4907A of this Chapter with the intent to hinder the discovery of practices or acts prohibited by this section.

§ 4904A. Estimate requirements for auto repair work.

(a) Written estimate and authorization requirements.

Unless waived pursuant to subsection (b) of this section by the customer or by a person the auto repair facility reasonably believes is acting on the customer's behalf, the automotive repair facility shall, before beginning any auto repair work and/or transmission repair diagnosis on a motor vehicle, give the customer a written statement which contains:

(1) The estimated completion date;

(2) The estimated price for the auto repair work including parts and labor; and

(3) The estimated surcharge, if any.

(b) Oral estimates and authorization.

If a customer, or a person the auto repair facility reasonably believes is acting on the customer's behalf, waives his or her right to a written estimate, the automotive repair facility shall orally provide to the customer, or a person the automotive repair facility reasonably believes to be acting on a customer's behalf, the estimated price and completion date before beginning any auto repair work; provided, however, the person giving the oral estimate shall make a written record of the requirements set forth in subsection (a)(l)-(a)(3) of this section, sign or initial the written document, and retain such document for a period of no less than two years.

(c) Prohibited charges.

An automotive repair facility shall not charge a customer without the consent of the customer, or a person the automotive repair facility reasonably believes is acting on behalf of the customer, any amount which exceeds the estimate by 20% or $50.00, whichever is less. Any charges which exceed 20% or $50.00, whichever is less, must comply with the requirements of subsection (a) and (b) of this Section.

§ 4905A. Invoice Requirements.

(a) Work description.

An automotive repair facility shall prepare an invoice which describes in all material respects:

(1) Auto repair work done by it, including all warranty work;

(2) All parts supplied by it;

(3) All labor performed by it. To the extent a charge for labor is not based on actual hours worked, the invoice shall specify that the labor charge is based on a flat rate. Notwithstanding the above, if the labor charge is part of a packaged price product, such as an oil change, the invoice need not specify the labor component of that charge; and

(4) All auto repair work that is performed by persons other than the auto repair facility. The auto repair facility shall retain the name, address, and
telephone number of such other persons performing auto repair work and disclose such information upon request of the customer or a person it reasonably believes to be acting on the customer's behalf.

(b) Used, rebuilt, or reconditioned parts.

The invoice shall state clearly if any used, rebuilt, or reconditioned parts were used in the auto repair work and/or if a part of a component system supplied is composed of used, rebuilt, or reconditioned parts.

(c) Copies of invoices.

The automotive repair facility shall give the customer a copy of the invoice and retain a copy for no less than two years.

§ 4906A. Replaced Parts -- Requirement for Return to the Customer.

An automotive repair facility shall offer to return all replaced parts to the customer, or a person acting on his or her behalf, except parts which are returned to a manufacturer or distributor, 1187nrdous materials, or other items which the automotive repair facility is otherwise required to properly dispose of or recycle. Nothing herein shall require the auto repair facility to retain replaced parts after final invoice.

§ 4907A. Unauthorized Repairs.

An automotive repair facility may not charge a customer for repairs not originally authorized or requested by the customer, or a person the auto repair facility reasonably believes is acting on the customer's behalf, unless the automotive repair facility receives written or oral permission from the customer in conformance with this chapter. To the extent a charge does not exceed an estimate by 20% or $50.00, whichever is less, no cause of action pursuant to § 4909A(c) shall accrue. Nothing in this section shall preclude enforcement pursuant to § 4903A(b)(6) and (9).

§ 4908A. Required notice to customers.

(1) All auto repair shops not otherwise complying with subsection (2) of this section shall post a sign, in a manner conspicuous to the public, which states as follows:

(a) The customer is entitled to receive a written or oral estimate;

(b) No auto repair work charge may exceed the estimate without the customer's consent;

(c) The facility shall offer to return to the consumer all replaced parts except those under warranty or trade-in parts returned to a manufacturer or distributor; and

(d) Complaints can be made to the Consumer Protection and Fraud Division of the Delaware Department of Justice.

(2) To the extent an auto repair facility does not post a sign pursuant to subsection (I) of this section, an automotive repair facility shall, prior to performing auto repair work, disclose to the customer on a separate document or the written estimate itself the following language:

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

CHECK ONE OF THE STATEMENTS BELOW AND SIGN

I UNDERSTAND THAT, UNDER STATE LAW, I AM ENTITLED TO A WRITTEN ESTIMATE.

I REQUEST A WRITTEN ESTIMATE.

I REQUEST AN ORAL ESTIMATE.

I DO NOT REQUEST A WRITTEN ESTIMATE AS LONG AS THE REPAIR COSTS DO NOT EXCEED $ . THE SHOP MAY NOT EXCEED THIS AMOUNT WITHOUT MY WRITTEN OR ORAL APPROVAL.

I WAIVE MY RIGHT TO AN ESTIMATE. SIGNED DATE

The above language shall be in bold typeset at least as large as the size of the print in the main body of the document. The requirements of this section shall be effective as of January 1, 1997.

§ 4909A. Enforcement and Remedies.

(a) The Attorney General shall have the same authority to enforce, remedy and otherwise carry out the provisions of this chapter as is provided by § 2517 of Title 29, §§ 2511-2527 and §§ 2531-2536 of Title 6 of the Delaware Code.

(b) Any violation of § 4903A of this chapter shall be deemed an unlawful practice in violation of § 2513 of this title and willful violations of § 4903A of this chapter shall be punishable in accordance with § 2513(c) and/or § 2581 of this title,

(c) Transactions where an automotive repair facility has violated the requirements of §§ 4903A, 4904A, 4905A, 4906A, and/or 4907A of this chapter shall be voidable by the consumer in actions brought in the Justice of Peace Courts. In successful actions brought by consumers under this subsection, the automotive repair facility shall be liable to the customer for twice the amount of any consideration obtained in violation of this chapter, and the costs of the action; provided, however, the customer must first allow the auto repair facility the opportunity to resolve the dispute prior to filing an action under this subsection; and the Court may further award a customer reasonable attorneys' fees.

Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a person from otherwise seeking a recovery in an action for damages against an automotive repair facility in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(d) The remedies and penalties provided for in this section are not exclusive and shall be in addition to any other procedures, rights or remedies which exist with respect to any other provisions of law including but not limited to state and/or federal criminal prosecutions and/or common law or statutory actions brought by private parties."

Approved July 2, 1996