Consumer Frequently Asked Questions
1. What happens once I file a complaint?
Your complaint will be reviewed promptly by a knowledgeable member of our staff to determine if it should be mediated or referred to our Enforcement Unit for further investigation. If the complaint falls within the criteria for mediation, our staff will work with you and the business to find a resolution that's acceptable to both. However, if the nature of your complaint reveals probable violations of the law, your complaint will be assigned to one of our Field Representatives for further investigation. Throughout the mediation or investigation process, we will keep you informed of our progress.
2. I'm having a problem with a repair, can you help me?
The Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair regulates service dealers and the repair of major home appliances (e.g., refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, ovens, etc.) and electronic equipment (e.g., televisions, personal computers, VCR's, stereos, fax machines, and copiers, etc.) used for personal or home office use. We also regulate the installation and repair of television and satellite antennas, auto burglar alarms, and automobile audio equipment. If your concerns are about a repair of any of these items, you may call the Department's Consumer Information Center toll-free at 1-800-952-5210 and request a complaint form or download a complaint form or file an on-line complaint form.
3. Does the service dealer have to give me a written estimate?
Yes. California State law requires that a written estimate of the cost be given to the consumer prior to the repair and the estimate must include the total price. However, an estimate does not have to be broken down as to the parts, labor and tax, or what specifically is wrong with the unit.
4. Do I have to pay for repairs without an estimate?
You are not liable to pay any repair charge that you did not authorize. If a service dealer placed parts in your unit and you did not agree to the repair charges, in advance, the service dealer can remove the parts and replace them with the parts that were in the unit prior to the repair. You may be liable for a diagnostic fee if it was disclosed to you in writing when your unit was taken in by the service dealer or prior to giving you an estimate.
5. How many times can a service dealer revise an estimate?
They can revise it as many times as you approve it.
6. Do I have to pay a fee to get my appliance or electronic equipment back?
If you were given a written disclosure of a diagnosis fee when you brought the unit in for repair, you are liable for that fee.
7. What can I do about unsafe products?
Call the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or visit them online at www.cpsc.gov.
8. Do I have the right to get parts back?
Yes, the service dealer is required to return all parts with these exemptions: unsafe or toxic parts (picture tubes, etc.), parts that are rebuilt on an exchange basis, or if you give the dealer a waiver on returning the parts to you.
9. What will happen to a service dealer if I file a complaint?
Depending on the severity of the complaint, the Bureau may take one of the following actions against the service dealer:
- issue a citation/fine
- put on probation
- suspend their registration
- revoked their registration
- file misdemeanor infractions, criminal fines and jail time
10. Should I stop payment on my check?
Stopping payment on a check leaves you open to be sued by the service dealer for non-payment and a judge may not rule in your favor.
11. Can you tell me what brand of product is better?
No, the Bureau does not provide specific recommendations. We suggest you contact your local library for back issues of Consumer Reports, Consumer Digest or other consumer publications that are independently prepared. (Consumer Reports indexes items in the back of each issue and also publishes a year-end buying guide). You may also visit these helpful web sites: www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm and www.energystar.gov.
12. Can a service dealer charge me a trip charge, a diagnostic fee and a repair charge?
The service dealer must quote a charge for each service call before making the service call. Additionally, the dealer may charge a reasonable diagnostic fee to determine the nature of the problem.
13. How many times should I let a dealer attempt to repair my unit?
While there is no specific limit, you may file a complaint with the Bureau if you are unhappy with the initial repair. If you choose to have another service dealer repair the item ask for a written statement on their invoice of what they found wrong with the first service dealer's work.
14. The service dealer wants to charge me more for additional repairs - can they?
The service dealer can charge for additional parts or labor if they indicate what the total repair charge will be and they get your approval (as long as the parts are in addition to parts they already replaced).
15. The service dealer did not arrive in the window of time that they said they would, what is my recourse?
If the service dealer fails to keep the appointment within a 4-hour window, the consumer has the right to file a claim in small claims court and sue for "actual damages" incurred. Consumers, on their own, can bring an action in small claims court against the retailer for lost wages, expenses actually incurred, or other damages up to $500. However, the company must employ at least 25 employees to be liable for damages, which exempts a lot of service dealers.
16. The service dealer is out of business - how do I recover my item(s)?
If the service dealer is registered with the Bureau, call the Department's Consumer Information Center toll-free at 1-800-952-5210 and request a complaint form. You can also download a complaint form or file it online through the Bureau's Web site. Be sure to include model number and serial number of your item. We will attempt to assist you to recover your item using our dealer registration information.
If the service dealer is not registered with the Bureau, we will attempt to locate the service dealer and your item.
17. The service dealer charged me 10 times more for a part than it would cost me at the parts house - what can I do?
The Bureau doesn't regulate prices. If a service dealer has promised a low mark-up, reasonable prices or discounts for parts, but fails to uphold that promise, there may be cause for complaint for "false or misleading statements."
18. What are my rights under the warranty on a used appliance?
Used appliances are sold with either an express warranty (written or verbal) or an implied warranty (30 days). Verbal warranties are harder to prove in court unless you have witnesses or the service dealer will admit that they gave you a certain warranty. If a dealer refuses to repair a used item under warranty, your recourse is small claims court. Since there is usually no fee for repair under warranty, used appliance dealers do not have to be registered with the Bureau.
19. My unit is out of warranty by one day/week/month - what can I do?
A manufacturer may choose to go ahead and cover a new item barely outside the warranty, but is under no obligation to do so.
20. The service dealer damaged my floor when they repaired my refrigerator - what can I do?
File a complaint with the Bureau, and we will investigate. The investigation will probably include a visit to your home. We will make a determination of the facts and make the appropriate recommendations.