Initiation of the case:
A representative of the Bureau, acting in an undercover capacity ("operator"), took the Bureau's vehicle to Respondent's facility. The operator requested the repair shop perform the "free" A/C (air conditioning) check on the vehicle, and presented Respondent's employee with an internet advertisement from repair shop’s website as they were offering a -Free A/C check with coupon".
Inducement to the undercover vehicle(s):
The inducement in the vehicle was that the ground wire to the compressor was rendered inoperable.
What occurred during the visit to the Automotive Repair Dealer(s)
The employee had the operator sign a work order, but did not give him a copy.
The employee did not provide the operator with a written estimate or invoice for the A/C check authorized the work.
The operator called the facility and spoke with the employee who told the operator that the A/C system did have Freon in it, but there was a problem in the electrical system. Repairs were authorized.
What Infractions of the Automotive Repair Act occurred?
Violations of the Code
Respondent's Registration is subject to disciplinary action pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (6) in that Respondent failed to comply with section 9884.9, subdivision (a), of that Code, in the following material respects: Respondent's employee failed to provide the operator with written estimates for the “free A/C system" check and the A/C system leak evaluation on the Bureau's vehicle.
Failure to Provide Customer with Copy of Signed Document
Respondent's Registration is subject to disciplinary action pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (3), in that Respondent's employee failed to provide the operator with a copy of the work order.
Respondent's Registration is subject to disciplinary action pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (5), in that Respondent committed an act constituting gross negligence, as follows: Respondent failed to properly repair the A/C compressor electrical ground wire on the Bureau's vehicle in that Respondent removed and/or discarded the in-line diode (the in-line diode allows electrical current to flow in one direction and protects the electrical components from normal voltage spikes created during the clutch cycling sequences).
What Infractions of the Automotive Repair Act occurred? Continued…
Departure from Trade Standards
Respondent's Registration is subject to disciplinary action pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (7), in that Respondent willfully departed from or disregarded accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike repair without the consent of the owner or the owner's duly authorized representative, in the following material respects:
Respondent failed to examine the broken ground wire at the A/C compressor clutch coil when performing the free A/C system check and/or the A/C system leak evaluation on the Bureau's vehicle.
Respondent failed to record on the invoice the high and low side system operating pressures of the A/C system on the Bureau's vehicle, as required by Regulation 3366, subdivision (a) (15).
Respondent failed to record on the invoice the center air distribution outlet temperature of the AC system, as required by Regulation 3366, subdivision (a) (16).
The Bureau inspected the vehicle and found that Respondent's facility had failed to properly repair the A/C system, constituting gross negligence, and had departed from accepted trade standards in performing the A/C system check.
Pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (6). in that Respondent failed to comply with Regulation 3371 by publishing, uttering, or making, or causing to be published, uttered, or made false or misleading statements or advertisements which are known to be false or misleading, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known to be false or misleading as follows: Respondent represented on the advertisement/coupon, described that the A/C system check would be "free". In fact, the A/C system check on the Bureau's vehicle was not "free" in that Respondent charged the operator for an A/C system leak evaluation and a diagnosis of the electrical system; i.e., the broken ground wire at the A/C compressor clutch coil. Both procedures were required to be performed on the vehicle as provided in Regulation 3366, subdivision (a), and should have been included in the "free" A/C system check.
Untrue or Misleading Statements:
Respondent's Registration is subject to disciplinary action pursuant to Code section 9884.7, subdivision (a) (1), in that Respondent made or authorized a statement which it knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known to be untrue or misleading, as follows: Respondent's employee represented to the operator during the "free A/C system check" on the Bureau's vehicle that the A/C system was "okay". In fact, the ground wire to the A/C compressor clutch coil was broken, preventing the A/C compressor from engaging.
What steps can an Automotive Repair Dealer do to avoid this?
When a repair dealer advertises a service, they must be sure they are compliant with the minimum guidelines under the automotive repair act to provide that service. In this case the repair dealer failed to follow regulation 3366 which covers Automotive Air Conditioning.
All service and sales advisors must be taught the “Write it right” ticket writing guide from the BAR to ensure they know that they must provide a complete initial estimate, obtain a customer signature and provide the customer with a copy of the initial estimate. The same applies to any revisions in the estimate and the final invoice provided to the customer.
Repair work must comply with the accepted trade standards for performing the work. In this case it was found the wire was repaired but the eliminated the diode that was in the line to avoid reverse energy current which could cause damage to the system.
The manner in which the repair to the faulty wire was performed also constituted gross negligence.
The service and sales advisor should always make truthful and accurate statements about the condition of the vehicle and the services it requires. In this case the operative was told the A/C system was “okay” when in fact it was not due to the faulty ground wire.
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