Auto Service World
News   April 4, 2016   by Allan Janssen

Big changes proposed to auto repair in Alberta

Bill 203, an amendment to the province’s Fair Trade Act, would require shops to provide an estimate before they can charge anything (unless the customer declines an estimate or authorizes a maximum amount they’re willing to pay), offer warranties of 90 days or 5,000 km on all work done, and prohibit shops from charging for estimates if customers agree to have the work done at the facility.

24-year-old MLA Jon Carson has proposed new rules to govern auto repairs in Alberta.

24-year-old MLA Jon Carson has proposed new rules to govern auto repairs in Alberta.

An Alberta politician wants to tighten the rules around automotive repairs.

Jon Carson, the NDP representative for Edmonton-Meadowlark, has put forward a bill that would require shops to provide an estimate before they can charge anything (unless the customer declines an estimate or authorizes a maximum amount they’re willing to pay), and offer warranties of 90 days or 5,000 km on all work done.

Bill 203, an amendment to the province’s Fair Trade Act, would also prohibit shops from charging for estimates if customers agree to have the work done at the facility.

A number of automotive associations have spoken up about problems with the proposed amendment, which has passed first reading in the provincial legislature without input any from industry.

Art Wilderman, executive director of the Canadian Independent Automotive Association, recently alerted his members to the situation, urging them to contact their MLAs to list the shortcomings of the proposed legislation.

“It is beyond alarming that the Alberta Independent Automotive Association, the Motor Dealers Association, the Recyclers and Dismantlers Association, the RV Dealers Association, Automotive Industries Association, Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC), or Service Alberta were not consulted,” he wrote.

He pointed out that Alberta is the only province in Canada that utilizes a regulatory body such as AMVIC to monitor and mediate repair services by operating under a Fair Trading Act.

“The number of repair complaints compared to the number of repair invoices written clearly demonstrates that the current regulations have been successful,” he wrote.

During the 2015 cycle, AMVIC received 251 complaints specifically relative to the independent service and repair sector.  From those complaints only 80 investigations were opened which resulted in 1 undertaking, 0 administrative penalties, and 0 warnings.

“To put this in a better perspective, there are currently 3,941 licensed shops in the province, so if we use a very conservative average monthly car count of 80 work orders per month we could roughly estimate that out of an estimated 3,783,360 invoices being completed over the course of a year, only 251 complaints were lodged, of which only 80 were deemed to be in need of further investigation of which resulted in only a single undertaking.”

A copy of the bill can be seen HERE.

Carson, 24, agrees he hasn’t heard any significant complaints about repair shop practices, nor has he had any negative experiences himself. He said the idea for the bill came from studying similar legislation in Ontario and Manitoba.

Denis Ducharme, president of the Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta, has gone on record as saying the Fair Trade Act and other legislation already provide protection for consumers. He also believes Carson should have consulted with industry before introducing his bill.

Ducharme says there are problems with several parts of the bill, including a section that might imply that shops cannot charge for diagnostic work if customers agree to have work done at the facility. He points out that technicians sometimes search for hours to find the source of a problem which might take only a few minutes to fix. If the shop were only reimbursed for the actual repair time, diagnostics would lead to big losses.

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23 Comments » for Big changes proposed to auto repair in Alberta
  1. Ken Hart says:

    Pretty interesting since thats how i run my shop now in B.C. I offer one year manufacturers warranty and I always call when it gets to be more than decided on, BUT , what is the Government doing about shade tree and non licenced mechanics ?????? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

    • Kevin Tremblay says:

      Here in Vancouver, independent shops are already closing at an alarming rate due to profit losses of trying to keep costs within client’s expectations, or similar to the local dealer’s costs. If we take away the right to charge for our inspection time, and then give the clients the right to expect the free estimate to be accurate, you might as well go public in saying “Here you go Dealers, they’re all yours. You can have every driver on the road as your customer, we won’t be around anymore.”
      I think the point is made…

  2. Call me at 519-453-9123 or email and I will put you on a mailing list revealing information that pertains to how we handle the regulations and interpretation of the rules in Ontario .

  3. Al Hurley says:

    Exactly Ken, What about the back alley wanna be mechanics…??? I also extend parts and labour warranty for all work done at my shop.
    I will not be changing anything on how I do my diagnostics and/or repairs because some wet behind the ears NDP idiot is trying to get himself noticed…..


      Unreal, he admits it’s not a problem but introduces a bill anyway? What a complete waste of time and money! Thinking it’s just a 24 year old that thinks it would be cool to have a bill passed with his name on it.

  4. Peter Foreman says:

    Trust an NDP MLA to make a problem out of something that was never a problem. Way to fan the flames, kid. Good Luck Alberta.

  5. Stephen Soles says:

    AMVIC already regulates and insures fair trading practices in this province.If the NDP rep needs to justify his political existence he should focus on matters that are a problem in Alberta,not try to stir up(yet more) trouble where none exists. Sounds like farm safety and school practices all over again..

  6. Stephen Duff says:

    No diagnostic time, no problem. The client will tell us what to fix and how.

  7. john says:

    The NDP are idiots and they are causing problems all over the spectrum. I was an automotive shop owner for 18 years and found it to be a thankless industry at best. Small margins doing hard work for un appreciative customers. For every ten happy customers there is one a hole who thinks you should work for free. That a hole is an NDP voter.

    • John,
      You are not helping our industry with your language and your political finger pointing. Lets keep this professional.

      • Rickrolled says:

        I agree with John. Way to May customers that think “you’re out to get them”.

        As for Murray, enough people here have commented on NDP, you didn’t say anything to them.

      • Jim says:

        Language yes, but I agree with the finger pointing, it’s time to expose these government representatives, or complete governments for how they waste taxpayers $ on issues that dont need to be addressed, we are working class people, not sheeple, just trying to make an honest living, but seems governments like to waste our tax $ on just about anything, if they concentrated on troubled areas then it may not be so bad

  8. Calvin says:

    I always find it interesting when people say there’s no need for legislation because there isn’t much of a problem. If the problem is so small, then should the legislation not make next to no difference? As far as the requirement for a warranty, why not market that as a huge advantage over the shade tree or unlicensed mechanics? Sell it as an advantage instead of complaining about having to meet the requirement.

    • D Boechler says:

      Warranty isn’t the issue. Parts already come with various warranties from the manufacturer. Take batteries and tires for example. The really expensive issue is being made to provide an accurate estimate without knowing what’s wrong or how large a hidden issue is. How bout electrical for example, you have one wire 25 feet long going through 6 individual connectors all of which are buried behind the dash, under carpet and seats etc. It has a problem. Is it shorted? Open? Grounded? Unplugged? Modified? Pinched? Cut? Melted? How much does that cost? The combination of variables are so many it would equate to guessing how many molecules of water are in the ocean. The lack of on the ground experience from legislators is obvious and made worse when they don’t ask the people with the experience. You can’t just guess. You can’t ram laws through without consultation. Your question should be if the problem is so small why make redundant laws when we have AMVIC and laws already in place.

    • James says:

      It sometimes takes a very long time with expensive equipment to find a problem. Then 15 minutes to fix once identified. So we get paid for 15 minutes of time? Dentists and doctors must also work for free. Education, equipment, overhead and wages need to be paid for.

  9. Darren Schcok says:

    The first thing you should learn in buisness is that time is money. I have to pay my technicians for doing the inspections along with paying my service advisors for doing the estimates. I have to pay for the proper equipment to inspect the vehicle. I have to pay for facilities, utilities, taxes. I don’t know where free comes into that equation! All professions charge for their time and rightly so why should we be different.

  10. Bill says:

    Why is a 24 year old kid drafting legislation that will effect a whole industry that is already struggling? We have AMVIC to protect the public already. If anything they should be clamping down on the unlicensed people doing repairs. Please quit spending our tax dollars on problems that don’t exist and concentrate on creating jobs and making alberta attractive to invest in again.

  11. Shawn Kay says:

    Amvic and the government should be clamping down like many say on the none licensed facilities and technicians performing unreliable repairs and work undercutting properly trained and licensed facilities. Doing an inspection or diagnostics takes time, isn’t that what we all get paid for, our time! We often zero the inspection or perform a free inspection with services unforced by the gov’t. I find this bill completely unjustified and wrongfully directed

  12. Cam says:

    This is just another NDP master plan constructed by some wet behind the ears kid. The public thinks technicians can just plug the tool in and know what to fix. Why do you think autovalue and other parts stores will do free code checks lol. No damn plan NDP kid. Why not try and figure out how the Independant will survive. Maybe try and stop the shade tree maybe do nothing that would be best for Alberta.

  13. Andy says:

    What he is proposing means that all diagnostic work will be done by lube techs and first and second year apprentices as they are paid hourly. I’m sure customers will be very comfortable with that thought.

  14. Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of the big orange mess in Alberta – wasn’t my vote that got them in. But my comment stems from 15 years as a shop owner and 30+ as a mechanic. The automotive service industry has suffered from a poor reputation in the public eye for a long, long time. If you think everything’s fine because nobody complains, you’re delusional. Most unhappy customers don’t give you a chance to fix comebacks, they just go elsewhere and carry their anger and disappointment with them, ready to tell everyone they know that you’re shop is horrible. This reputation was our own doing as an industry – let me explain. As technology began to change in leaps and bounds with the introduction of EFI in the mid 80’s, the aftermarket repair industry failed to keep up. We continued to “fix” peoples vehicles with inadequate training, inadequate tooling and inadequate technical information. That being said, small shops were at the mercy of OEM’s not releasing the information that we needed and the aftermarket tool and training providers needed or if it was available, the cost was prohibitive for the average small shop. So many times I found myself disappointed the the newest aftermarket scan-tool update still couldn’t perform a host of tests needed for accurate diagnosis. Now some shops recognized this and took advantage of everything they could to stay current. They went out of their way to find tooling, information and training to help them fix it right the first time. These are the shops that maintain a solid reputation in their communities. They will have no problem providing estimates for their customers. They will carry on doing business as usual and meet the new legislative requirements. To those shops who think this is unfair, would you let a contractor re-roof your house or build your fence without an estimate? Would you hold a real estate agent to the fees they quoted you on the sale of a house? What’s wrong with wanting to know how much a car repair will cost before you have it done? As a shop owner, you can certainly educate your client about the possibility of broken or siezed bolts and cracked cylinder heads and the extra cost involved ahead of the job. If you have a shelf full of known good test parts because replacing them didn’t fix the complaint, if you think it’s OK to play diagnostic dart board with a customer’s money or fix cars by “guessnosis” than carry on, because chances are in this day and age you’ll be left just doing brake jobs and fan belts on the 1988 cavaliers till they’re all gone…then you’ll fade into history. Be part of the trend and help repair our reputation, one accurate diagnosis and estimate at a time.

  15. I owned an operated an automotive repair shop for 20 years and never once had any complaints taken to the Better Business Bureau, the Canadian Automotive Association, or any other ruling body. I currently provide management training for Automotive Shops across the country. These are very well run shops, they never proceed without an authorization, they offer a 12 month 20,000 kilometre warranty, and some are moving towards a 24 month 40,000 kilometre warranty. Everything this bill addresses we already do in spades. In fact we do out best to be less than the estimate given. When I go to the dentist and they take an x-ray in order to diagnose my concern, I still have to pay even when I get the work done. I would like to ask this member of the legislature if he is willing to not be paid if any bill he is working on does not pass. Same principle. I think clarity in the words estimate and diagnosis are the key discussion. Any shop I know is happy to type out an estimate free of charge for any of their customers. But we can spend up to 50% of out time diagnosing and inspecting. That is all ethical, moral and legitimate billable time.

  16. Scott berry says:

    As a 23 yr auto tech specializing in diagnostics what’s the point of continuing to spend countless hours and money on training to keep up with technology. This bill is outrageous and extremely unfare.I will personally bring this kid into a shop and let him do what I do for a couple of days and see how he thinks afterwards. This will cause way more issues with technicians just shotgunning parts into people’s cars without finding out the problem.customers will be happy repeatedly coming back to the shop and spending huge money and still having a broken car. Great job dude.

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