Proposed auto repair ordinance sparks controversy

December 7, 2011 3:24:52 PM PST
City leaders are considering a new ordinance meant to protect drivers from jaw-dropping auto repair bills. But auto shop owners worry it could be bad for business.

The issue was discussed at length in Council Chambers, but a vote has been delayed for two weeks. Supporters say this measure is designed to keep consumers from being taken advantage of. Opponents call it an attack on small auto repair businesses.

As the owner of an auto repair shop, Michael Poutous says when it comes to customer service, honesty is everything.

"It has to be. Our livelihood depends on it. There's a dozen other shops they can pass to get to me so it has to be," he said.

The problem is not all repair shops are as forthcoming, so some city leaders are a proposing new ordinance that would make it illegal for mechanics to charge customers for added services without signed pre-approval.

"I just don't see where it's wrong that you ask a business owner if they are going to change the cost of the repairs to give you the option to say yes," Councilwoman Sue Lovell said.

Not everyone is giving it a thumbs up.

"We're using a cannonball to swat a fly," Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said.

Some council members say the proposed changes would hurt smaller auto repair shops.

"In some instances, it will increase business costs of more than $100,000. We are going to run smaller to mid-size companies out of business," Jones said.

Poutous say tracking down a customer first might cause a slight delay in getting the work done but admits doing business any other way would be dishonest.

"Our practice is to call every time we're going to add anything, that the customer needs to know about it," Poutous said.

The new rules would also require businesses to comply with a host of requirements.

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