Edmonton, Alberta -- January 26, 2017 -- An Alberta private member's bill that was intended to protect motorists from unexpectedly high repair bills did not proceed to second reading. Bill 203, originally introduced by Edmonton-Meadowlark NDP MLA Jon Carson, was under review by the standing committee on families and communities, but the Alberta Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) reviewing the bill determined that it was too flawed to proceed. The decision came after hearing testimony from a number of industry groups representing automotive dealerships and repair facilities.
Collision Repair magazine first reported on Bill 203 in March 2016. In essence, Bill 203 would have required 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 would pay ahead of time. Additionally, under the proposed bill, repair facilities would have had to provide warrantees on all parts installed as well as the labour involved for at least 90 days or 5,000 km, whichever comes first.
However, not everyone thought the bill was necessary. There were a number of opposed MLAs including Calgary-West MLA, Mike Ellis. Ellis was a licensed mechanic before taking public office and spent over five years in the trade. Ellis argued that Bill 203 was redundant. He outlined how he believed current consumer protective legislation was not only adequate, but better protects consumers than the proposed Bill.
“The first thing that jumped out at me, if you look at the statistics and you look at the numbers provided by collision repair shops and the Alberta Motor Dealers Association, we had 5,000,000 services in 2015 and we only had 45 consumer complaints. None of which ever lead to any charges or fines,” said Ellis in an interview with Collision Repair magazine when Bill 203 was first proposed. At the time, Ellis also noted that, statistically speaking, there simply wasn’t much of a need for new consumer protection legislation, something he attributed to the work of the current regulatory body in the province, the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC).
Denis Ducharme, President of the Motor Dealers Association of Alberta, echoed Ellis’ statement during testimony to the committee.
"The truth is this bill is a harsh solution in search of a non-existent problem," Ducharme told the committee, according to a report by the CBC. "Many of the things the bill purports to do are already done under existing legislation and regulation."
The MLAs reviewing Bill 203 have instead recommended the government of Alberta develop a program to educate consumers on the Fair Trading Act and how it applies to automotive repairs.