City Council considering auto repair shop ordinance

February 14, 2012 4:39:03 PM PST
Dozens of auto shop owners are now speaking out against a proposed new ordinance that will change the way they do business. The city of Houston says the new regulations protect customers from getting ripped off, but not everyone agrees.

The mayor's office says more than 800 Houstonians complained about being duped at local auto shops last year alone. But some business owners are worried new ordinance changes City Council is considering could put some of them out of business.

At Pedro Moreno's auto shop on the East End, the staff says a tough economy has made business rather slow.

"We've got to keep working though to make a living, to pay the bills," said Moreno.

Now Moreno and dozens more auto shop owners are concerned proposed ordinance changes could hurt local auto shops even more.

"Under this ordinance, any police officer in Houston can go to any repair shop in Houston, and ask to see -- demand to see -- any repair records from the last two years, without a complaint being followed, without a warrant and without a subpoena," said John Miller with the Freedom Automotive.

These protesting business owners are trying to stop changes to Houston's Chapter 8 ordinance. The mayor's office says the changes strengthen auto shop regulations to help protect consumers. This group doesn't see it that way.

"I think what it's going to cause is more business either to close their gates and do work with the gates closed or leave the city of Houston," said business owner Mark Rodriguez.

Among the proposed new rules, auto repair shops would be required to display a license, keep precise files, get a customer's signature for any and all work, and it keeps shops from charging you more than $100 above the estimate. But that's not it.

"They are trying to mandate us to have insurance, $300,000. That's $600 a month. Small shops cannot afford that," said John Juanopulos with the J&A Body Shop.

These business owners are concerned if City Council pushes the auto repair shop ordinance through that they'll have to pass added costs onto their customers.

"There will be a lot of businesses just shutting down; simple as that," said Juanopulos.

City Council will continue discussing the issue on Wednesday.