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How to file a complaint against an auto repair shop

Camila Lopez - Auto Repair - August 26, 2022

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Took your car to the auto repair shop but they failed to repair it or did a terrible job?  You have several options including submitting a complaint to the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (also known as "BAR").

This article outlines the following ways to resolve your dispute against an auto repair shop:

California Bureau of Automotive Repairs ("BAR")

What is the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs?

The Bureau of Automotive Repairs is a California government agency that regulates auto repair shops.

They issue licenses, investigate consumer complaints, and enforce the rules that auto repair shops have to follow.

Don't forget to always check an auto repair shop's license before getting work done!

What types of complaints does the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR) handle?

The Bureau of Automotive Repairs handles a broad range of complaints against auto repair shops. Here are some examples:

  • When an auto repair shop damages your car.

  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems

  • When an auto repair shop doesn't provide you with an estimate prior to doing the work on your car

  • When you feel you were overcharged for the work the auto repair shop did

  • When an auto repair shop won't issue a refund

  • When you took your car for smog inspection or repair

They also handle complaints involving motorcycles and motor homes.

The Bureau of Auto Repair has outlined your rights as a consumer when dealing with auto repair shops, read the guide here.

How to File a Complaint with the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR)

Online:  Click here to go to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's complaint form

Print and mail option:

  1. Click here to print a PDF of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's complaint form.

  2. Mail the completed form to:

Bureau of Automotive Repair
10949 North Mather Boulevard
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

What to Expect Following Submission of your BAR complaint

BAR will conduct an investigation of your complaint against the auto repair shop. Here are the steps the BAR takes:

  1. Once you submit your complaint to the BAR, you will receive a postcard within 10 days as confirmation that BAR has received your complaint. The postcard will contain your case number and your assigned BAR representative.

  2. A BAR representative will review your complaint and determine whether the auto repair shop may have violated the Auto Repair Act or other laws regulating auto repair shops.

  3. Your BAR representative will contact the repair shop on your behalf and try to come to an agreement. During this process, your representative may reach out to you several times as they work with you and the repair shop. The BAR representative will also obtain documentation if the auto repair shop has violated the law.

  4. Once the investigation is complete, you and the auto repair shop will receive the outcome. Sometimes an agreement is reached and other times, no agreement will be reached.

If you decide to sue the auto repair shop in small claims, you can request (subpoena) that the Bureau of Auto Repair submit their records to the court before the hearing.  

To learn more Click Here(Don't worry, we can help you subpoena the Bureau of Auto Repairs when you file in small claims).

What to do if no agreement is reached after a Bureau of Auto Repair complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court or filing a complaint with the BBB.

Read More: Complete Guide on how to file a Los Angeles Small Claims Court Lawsuit

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Complaints Against an Auto Repair Shop

What is the BBB?

The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between auto repair shops and consumers.

Reasons Why Some Auto Repair Shops Respond to BBB Complaints

  • If the auto repair shop is accredited with the BBB and they don't respond to a BBB complaint, their accreditation may be revoked and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.

  • If the auto repair shop is not Accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile.

  • BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when engaging with an auto repair shop. Auto repair shops do not want negative BBB complaints.

What types of complaints against auto repair shops does the BBB handle?

The BBB handles a broad range of complaints against auto repair shops. Here are some examples:

  • When an auto repair shop damages your car.

  • When you took your car to be repaired but your car is still having mechanical problems

  • When an auto repair shop doesn't provide you with an estimate prior to doing the work on your car

  • When you feel you were overcharged for the work an auto repair shop did

  • When an auto repair shop won't issue a refund

They also handle complaints involving motorcycles and motor homes.

Read More: How to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

How to file a complaint against an auto repair shop with the BBB

  1. Click here to go to the Better Business Bureau website.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the button “Start Your  Complaint.

What to Expect Once you Submit your Complaint to the BBB

  • The BBB will forward your complaint to the auto repair shop within 2 business days.

  • The auto repair shop will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made.

  • You will be notified of the auto repair shop’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they received no response).

  • Complaints against auto repair shops are usually closed within 30 business days.

What to do if no agreement is reached after a BBB complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court

California Small Claims Court

Suing an auto repair shop is a very common type of small claims lawsuit.

What types of lawsuits can be filed against auto repair shops in small claims?

Many types of lawsuits can be filed against auto repair shops, the most common ones are over:

  • The final bill an auto repair shop provides you with

  • Failure to provide you with an estimate before doing work on your car

  • Failure to repair your car after you paid them to repair

Read:4 Tips for Suing an Auto Repair Shop in Small Claims

How Does Small Claims Work?

Small Claims Court Limits

To be able to file a small claims court lawsuit in California, you are capped at the amount you can sue for, also known as "small claims court limits."

How to write a demand letter 3

If you are owed for more than the amount you can sue for, you can still sue for the maximum amount allowed, but you will need to waive any additional amount over the limit.

What are the California Small Claims Court Filing Fees?

The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.  

How to write a demand letter 4

What are other costs for Small Claims Court?

In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:

If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need a lawyer to go to court? No, in fact, California does not allow lawyers to represent you at the initial small claims hearing.

  • What are small claims hearings like in California? The hearings are quick and on average are 10-15 minutes. Learn more here.

  • How long does small claims take? A court usually schedules the small claims hearing no later than 70 days from when the lawsuit is filed. Learn more here.

  • Subpoena the Bureau of Automotive Repairs. If you filed a complaint with the Bureau of Automotive Repairs before filing a small claims lawsuit, you can request (subpoena) their records be sent to the court before the hearing. Learn more here.

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Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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