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Industry Related Frequently Asked Questions

Written Estimates

A service dealer may not begin work or charge a customer for repairs until the customer has been given a written estimate and the customer has specifically authorized the repair.

1. Does an estimate have to be in writing?

Yes. This protects both the customer and the service dealer from any misunderstanding about the cost involved in a repair.

2. When must a written estimate be prepared?

The written estimate must be prepared before any work is performed.

3. What must the estimate include?

The estimate must include all costs for parts, labor, and the initial service call, including all transportation and travel charges.

4. Does the estimate have to include sales tax?

No, sales tax and other applicable taxes do not have to be part of the estimate.

5. How can a dealer revise an estimate?

A dealer can revise an estimate by getting the customer's authorization for the additional repair and charge.

6. Can a dealer obtain authorization by phone?

Yes. For additional charges, the dealer must note on the service invoice the following information:

  • Date and time
  • Name of person authorizing additional repairs
  • Telephone number called, if any
  • Name of person receiving the authorization
  • Condition of consent, if any
  • Description of additional parts and labor
  • Total additional cost authorized

Diagnosis Fees

A service dealer may charge a diagnosis fee to determine what is wrong with the customer's equipment in order to prepare a written estimate.

1. When can a dealer charge a diagnosis fee?

The dealer can charge a diagnosis fee after advising the customer in writing of the amount of the diagnosis fee.

2. How must a dealer notify the customer about the diagnosis fee?

The dealer must give the amount in writing to the customer before the equipment is accepted for repair or removed from the customer's home.

3. What must the diagnosis fee include?

The fee must include all transportation and travel charges associated with the diagnosis.

Unusual Circumstances

Special provisions allow the service dealer to comply with the written estimate provisions when the customer's equipment is received by common carrier (e.g., postal or freight service) or the customer is not present at his or her home.

1. What if the equipment is received by mail or the customer is not present at the residence when the dealer arrives for the repair?

An estimate that includes parts, labor, service call, and transportation charges must be specifically authorized in writing, by phone, or other means by the customer before the repair can be performed.

2. What if the customer rejects the estimate for repair?

The service dealer may only charge for the initial service call or the cost of shipping the equipment back to the customer, and the diagnosis fee, if previously authorized by the customer.

3. May the dealer charge for a diagnosis fee?

In order for the dealer to charge for a diagnosis fee, they must get the customer's approval in writing, by telephone, or other means before the work is started.

4. What if the customer rejects the diagnosis fee?

The service dealer may only charge for the initial service call or the cost of shipping the equipment back to the customer.

5. What must be noted on the invoice?

The invoice must have the following:

  • Date and time customer was contacted
  • Amount of the estimate of repair
  • Any diagnosis fee and transportation costs quoted to the customer
  • The name of the person authorizing or rejecting the diagnosis fee or estimate
  • Signature of service dealer or their representative

Service Calls

A service call occurs when a service dealer, in response to a request from the customer, sends an employee to the customer's residence to inspect or repair equipment.

1. When must a dealer notify a customer that there will be a charge for a service call?

Before the service call is made.

2. How much can a dealer charge for a service call?

The dealer may not charge a higher fee for the service call than what is advertised or quoted over the telephone.

3. Is the dealer allowed to charge a service call fee and a diagnostic fee?

The dealer can charge both fees only when the customer has approved the diagnostic fee in writing in advance.

4. Are there any other charges allowed?

No. The only charge allowed is for the actual repair cost approved by the customer in the written estimate.

Service Receipts and Claim Checks

There are two types of documents that a service dealer must give a customer when performing a repair. The first document is the service receipt or claim check that is given to a customer when a service dealer assumes responsibility for the repair of the customer's equipment. The second document is the invoice that is given to the customer after the repair is completed.

1. When is a Service Receipt or Claim Check required?

The Service Receipt or Claim Check is required at the time the unit is accepted for repair, or removed from the customer's residence.

2. What needs to be on the Service Receipt or Claim Check?

The service receipt or claim check must include the following:

  • Business name of service dealer
  • State registration number
  • Address and telephone number where repairs are performed
  • Date equipment was accepted or received by service dealer
  • Description of the equipment including make, model, and serial number
  • Customer information, including name and address
  • Summary of customer's description of problem associated with equipment
  • Removal and reinstallation charge, if any
  • Legible signature or employee number of employee accepting or removing equipment for repair
  • Insurance information
  • The following statement:
  • "An estimate as required (California Business and Professions Code Section 9844) for repairs shall be given to the customer by the service dealer in writing, and the service dealer may not charge for work done or parts supplied in excess of the estimate without the prior consent of the customer. Where provided in writing, the service dealer may charge a reasonable fee for services provided in determining the nature of the malfunction in preparation of a written estimate for repair. For further information, contact the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Department of Consumer Affairs, Sacramento, 95814."

Invoices

All work performed by a service dealer must be recorded on an invoice that describes all service work done and all parts supplied. A copy of the invoice must be given to the customer even if no fee is charged (i.e., warranty repairs).

1. When is an invoice required?

An invoice is required when the equipment is returned to the customer.

2. What must be on the invoice?

It must be legible and contain:

  • Service dealer Information
    - Business name
    - Address
    - Telephone number
    - State registration number
  • Date invoice was prepared
  • If the equipment is removed from the customer's home, home office, or private vehicle, the address and registration number of the service dealer where the equipment was taken, if different than above.
  • Customer name and address
  • Description of equipment repaired including:
    - Make
    - Model
    - Serial number
  • Statement of total charges
  • Itemized list of all parts replaced indicating:
    - Parts covered under warranty
    - Parts not covered by warranty and the specific charge for any parts replaced
  • Itemized labor services indicating:
    - Services covered under warranty
    - Services not covered under warranty and the specific charge for service performed
  • Itemized list of any other charges, such as a service call charge
  • Identification of any used or exchanged parts and the charges for those parts
  • The signature or employee number of the person who prepared the invoice
  • The signature or employee number of the person who performed the repair
  • The following statement:
  • "An estimate as required (California Business and Professions Code Section 9844) for repairs shall be given to the customer by the service dealer in writing, and the service dealer may not charge for work done or parts supplied in excess of the estimate without the prior consent of the customer. Where provided in writing, the service deal may charge a reasonable fee for services provided in determining the nature of the malfunction in preparation of a written estimate for repair. For further information contact the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repairs, Department of Consumer Affairs, Sacramento, 95814."

3. How long must the dealer keep invoices?

The dealer must keep invoices for at least three years. In addition, the dealer must keep customer claim checks, estimate records and employee records for at least three years.