By Dylan O'Hagan
Edmonton, Alberta -- March 27, 2016 -- An Alberta Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) is proposing a new private-members bill intended to help protect automotive consumers during the repair process.
“Bill 203 will amend the Alberta Fair Trade Act increasing consumer protection in the motor repair industry and takes the regulations that are in place right now in the Fair Trade Act and enshrines them into legislation,” said Alberta MLA Jon Carson.
Bill 203 would require automobile repair facilities to provide an estimate of the cost of the repair in writing before charging the owner of the vehicle, unless the customer declined the estimate or specified a maximum amount they will pay ahead of time.
Additionally, under the proposed bill, repair facilities would have to provide warranties on all parts installed as well as the labour involved for at least 90 days or 5,000 km, whichever comes first. Another new requirement would be that information about the consumers rights must be posted in plain sight inside the shop.
Bill 203 was developed partially by taking a look at current consumer protection legislation in other provinces like Ontario, said Carson.
“Through conversations with people in the community there have been a lot of questions around fairness in the industry,” he said. “I looked to other jurisdictions and saw this is something that could potentially be beneficial to Albertans.”
The move to pass bill 203 is a step in the right direction, according to the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) Senior Policy Analyst, Scott Wilson.
“It’s an appropriate direction and echoes some of the provisions in other jurisdictions, which is what I think they were trying to achieve,” said Wilson. “I think anytime you can provide a consumer with a little more certainty around a transaction at a collision repair facility, it’s a good thing.”
However, more can still be done to protect consumers in Alberta, said Wilson.
“Over the years there have been improvements in the type of consumer protection legislation that was in place for automotive consumers,” he said. “I certainty wouldn't consider it as going as far as it possibly could. I think there is room for improvement and this is an appropriate direction to move.”
Proper consumer protective legislation helps protect consumers, but it isn’t a guarantee. The bill is also designed to help people understand their rights when having their vehicle repaired.
“It really has to do with laying out the information a lot easier and a lot more clearly for those who don't have a grasp of the industry,” said Carson.
Wilson said he believes consumers having the proper knowledge and understanding is a key to the whole process. Without the proper understanding, legislation can only do so much, he said.
“I don't look at this as a cure-all in any sense. I think it’s a really good move in the right direction and at the same time, consumers still need to do what they need to do to understand the relationship their getting into when they try to get their vehicle repaired,” he said. “It's important for them to be asking questions, clarifying their understanding, filling gaps and knowing what sort of relationship they're getting into.”
Consumers should also remember to shop around and compare offers from automobile repair facilities. Wilson alluded to the proposed warranty provisions provided by Bill 203 and said he believes the 5,000 km or 90-day warranty is a good baseline but consumers can do much better if they shop around.
“I think it's interesting, there are already certain agencies that provide a warranty greater than that. I know if our members go to one our approved auto repair facilities, they're getting a warranty that is one year and 20,000 km, so it depends where you go,” he said.
Wilson said the association hopes to sit down with Carson soon and provide feedback about the proposed bill.