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You may find yourself in a dispute with your mechanic, which can arise for a number of reasons. You may not be satisfied with the work performed by the mechanic, or they may have engaged in some form of misconduct that damaged your vehicle. It may be tempting to pursue litigation against mechanics, but resolving a dispute through the court is often a costly and lengthy process. This article will outline some methods available to you to settle disputes with your mechanic in a friendly and amicable manner.

Your Rights as a Consumer Under the Australian Consumer Law

You may be entitled to certain guarantees and warranties under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). If you engaged a mechanic for services that cost:

  • less than $40,000; or
  • more than $40,000, but were engaged for a household or personal purpose,

then the service you received will be covered by the ACL. 

Under the ACL, anyone that provides a service that matches the criteria above must uphold the following:

  • use acceptable care and skill when performing or delivering the service;
  • possess the proper technical knowledge;
  • not cause loss or damage to the product;
  • ensure the service or product fits the purpose that it was made for; and
  • deliver the service within a reasonable time, if there is not a fixed time period for delivery of service.

You may also be entitled to further guarantees under the ACL, specifically guarantees related to your rights to spare parts and repair facilities for products. If you believe a mechanic did not comply with their obligations as a service provider under the ACL, it would be in your best interests to discuss your issues with the mechanic and see how they respond.

Discuss the Issue With Your Mechanic

If you have any issues with your mechanic, your first step should be to raise the issue with them. Make sure to take note of what they say when you discuss your issue with them, including their acknowledgement of your concerns and how they will go about resolving the situation. You should consider making a timeline of events starting with when the issue first came to your attention.

It may also benefit you to find another qualified mechanic to look at your vehicle and provide their own findings. Or, you could request an independent report from an impartial mechanic. However, you should prepare to pay a fee for that report.

Check the Service Agreement

You should also do a thorough read of the service agreement that you entered into with your mechanic. Typically a service agreement issued by your mechanic should include an outline of the services the mechanic will provide, as well as terms and conditions associated with their service.

The service agreement may also include clauses for mechanisms to follow if a dispute arises with your mechanic. These mechanisms are known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which allow parties to try to settle their dispute in a third party forum without going to court.

In any situation with your mechanic, you should try to obtain a copy of the service agreement to understand your rights and obligations.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

If there are no provisions for ADR in the service agreement, you should try to resolve your dispute using these mechanisms anyway. ADR is often faster and cheaper than taking your matter to court. You should be able to find various government agencies in your state or territory that provide dispute resolution services. In New South Wales (NSW), the Small Business Commissioner and NSW Fair Trading both offer ADR services.

Before engaging in any form of ADR, you should make sure to prepare with all the necessary documentation, including: 

  • the service agreement (or similar document);
  • any invoices or receipts, repair estimates, independent reports or quotes; and
  • any correspondence. 

You must also go into an ADR with a willingness to negotiate and discuss an amicable resolution with the mechanic.

Administrative Tribunal

If ADR has been unsuccessful, you can choose to apply to your state’s administrative body. In NSW, you would apply to the Consumer and Commercial Division of the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). To bring a claim in NCAT or any administrative tribunal, be aware of the following:

  • any application to an administrative tribunal will require a fee;
  • in NCAT, your claim must be under $40,000.00;
  • your application must be within three years in which the problems associated with the mechanic occurred. The services provided by the mechanic must also have been provided within ten years;
  • an administrative tribunal may ask parties who apply to first engage in conciliation prior to the hearing; and
  • generally, in administrative tribunals, parties pay their own costs of preparing for the hearing. There are cases in which a tribunal may make costs orders, for example, if a party conducts the proceedings in a way that disadvantages the other or if they make a claim with no basis.

Key Takeaways

Disputes with your mechanic may arise for numerous reasons. When this occurs, you should try to resolve the dispute before turning to litigation, as litigation is a costly and time-consuming process. Some ways to resolve a dispute with your mechanic without the courts include:

  • discussing the issue with your mechanic;
  • checking if the ACL entitles you to guarantees;
  • checking the terms and conditions in the service agreement; 
  • engaging in ADR; and
  • applying to an administrative tribunal, such as NCAT. 

If you have any questions about how to deal with an issue with your mechanic, or you need assistance resolving a dispute, contact LegalVision’s dispute resolution lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are services by a mechanic covered by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL)?

If you engaged a mechanic for services that cost less than $40,000 or more than $40,000 but were engaged for a household or personal purpose, then the service you received will be covered by the ACL. 

What is the purpose of a service agreement?

A service agreement is a contract entered into with your mechanic. It is typically issued by your mechanic and should include an outline of the services they will provide, as well as terms and conditions associated with their service.

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