We learned from the RepairPal.com blog last month that California Attorney General Jerry Brown is spearheading legal action against a large Midas franchisee for deceptive upselling of auto repairs. The state government set up a “sting operation” that revealed a pattern of unnecessary or unperformed repair jobs. Here is the initial news story, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.
Mike Glad, the Midas franchisee in question and owner of 22 Midas repair shops in Northern California, has responded to the government’s suit through his attorney. There are several interesting angles in this story, not the least of which is finding out exactly what “fake car owners” told repair shop technicians during the sting operation.
An unreported, but related, angle is the potential for additional lawsuits against dealerships and repair shops for traditional upselling (not the aggressive, possibly fraudulent techniques this Midas franchisee allegedly employed). Remember that the vast majority of repair shop upselling occurs over the phone. Typically, a car owner drops off a vehicle in the morning, heads to work, and receives a phone call mid-day explaining that there are additional recommended repairs based on the shop’s comprehensive inspection. If the car owner wants the car back that evening, he / she generally must approve or decline the upsell on the phone.
This phone-based, verbal upselling process is ripe for miscommunication. Car owners may misinterpret the pricing (“I thought the estimate already included taxes and fees!”) or the justification for the repair (“You told me this was required for safety purposes, not recommended.”). Likewise, repair shop employees may misinterpret whether the repair was authorized.
At best, these frequent miscommunications result in “he said / she said” disputes during the vehicle pick-up and check-out process. Car owners often simply refuse to pay for repairs they did not understand or did not authorize. At worst, we can imagine a series of small claims suits that drain the pockets and harm the reputation of repair shop owners.
Either option is a bad business outcome. Accordingly, ClearMechanic offers end consumers the ability to see an actual invoice for the recommended upsell and to authorize the repair by clicking “approve” or “decline.” This documentation of the upsell attempt, the price and the authorization could make life a lot easier for all parties.