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Senate Bill 217 (Enrolled)
Topic: Appliance Repair
Position: The Department of Consumer and Industry Services supports the bill.
Bill Content: The bill creates a new act entitled the Appliance Repair Act.
The bill defines "appliance", "customer", and "service dealer". "Appliance" is defined as a refrigerator, dehumidifier, freezer, oven, range, microwave oven, washer, dryer, dishwasher, trash compactor, or window room air conditioner. The definition of "customer" includes appliances used personally but not those used as part of a business or commercial enterprise. A "service dealer" does not include a contractor licensed under the Forbes Mechanical Contractors Act.
The bill requires a written estimate before a service dealer repairs, services, or performs maintenance on an appliance. The written estimate is required to include certain information, including the service dealer's name, mailing address, and telephone number; a description of the problem requiring service, repair, or maintenance; the charges for labor and parts with each stated separately; and the cost, if any, of removing and returning the appliance to the customer's premises. The service dealer may not charge more than 110% of the amount of the estimate unless verbal or written permission of the customer is received.
A service dealer may charge a reasonable fee for any labor performed in examining the appliance and diagnosing problems. All charges related to the examination of the appliance and diagnosis of the problem, including any costs related to dismantling and reassembly, must be included in the written cost estimate.
The bill does not prohibit a service dealer from charging for a service call. The written estimate may be combined with the final bill.
All parts removed from the appliance are required to be returned to the customer. There is an exception for cases where the customer has declined, in writing, to receive the removed part and parts that have a core charge, exchange rate, or contain hazardous material. If parts are retained, there must be a written statement on the final bill describing the reasons for retention.
The final bill is required to contain the following information:
- Name and address of the service dealer.
A service dealer is required to provide a warranty of at least 30 days on any labor relating to the repair of the appliance and on any parts used in the service or repair. The warranty in the bill does not void, reduce, or supersede a warranty made by the manufacturer. The warranty in the bill requires the correction at no cost of any failure of the warranted parts if the customer notifies the service dealer within the applicable warranty time period. The service dealer is required to make the warranted correction in 10 days or less, unless parts are not received after being ordered in a timely manner. The service dealer is required to make a written record of the ordering of the parts.
A labor charge may be imposed if the written notice of failure is received after the 30-day labor warranty. A warranty for service and repairs is extended by any period of time the service dealer has possession of the appliance for work related to the warranty.
A service dealer who makes a false statement of character likely to influence, persuade, or induce a character likely to influence, persuade, or induce a customer to authorize the repair, service, or maintenance of an appliance is subject to the remedies in the bill. A service dealer who fails to substantially comply with the disclosure requirements of the bill is also subject to the bill's remedies.
The bill provides for a new cause of action in which a person may bring an action in a court for damages for violation of the act. The damages are $250 or the actual damages; whichever is greater, together with reasonable attorney fees. A court may award an amount equal to twice the damages for willful violations. The Attorney General, the prosecuting attorney, or any person who has suffered loss as a result of a violation of the bill's provisions may also bring an action pursuant to the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. The remedies under the bill are cumulative and independent. The use of one remedy does not bar the use of other lawful remedies, including injunctive relief, by a person or the Department of Attorney General.
House committee adopted an amendment renaming the bill the "Joe Gagnon Appliance Repair Act". Joe Gagnon is a former appliance repairman and is now a Detroit area radio personality.
The bill takes effect on June 1, 2002.
Arguments For: A few unethical appliance repair businesses give the appliance repair industry a bad name. There is nothing for the reputable appliance repair business to fear in the bill. Detailed estimates, warranties, and prohibition of false statements are not revolutionary, but they provide basic and fundamental protections for consumers. Reputable appliance repair businesses already do these things. The bill targets unscrupulous appliance repair businesses.
Arguments Against: The bill provides little additional protection for consumers. The Consumer Protection Act already provides a mechanism whereby the Attorney General can take action against an unethical repair business. For instance, a representative of the Department of Attorney General stated in House committee that action was being taken by the Attorney General against a business that was replacing good parts in appliances and then reselling the used parts to other customers.
SupportersOpponents: The Attorney General supports the bill. Joe Gagnon, the "Appliance Doctor" on WJR Radio, supports the bill.
Fiscal Impact: The bill will have no fiscal impact on state government.
Administrative Rules Impact: The bill does not require new or revised
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