CARSON CITY-Consumer advocates and auto service shop owners agree there's fraud in the industry, but are miles apart on ways to solve problem. Assemblywoman Vonne Chowning, (D-North Las Vegas), sponsor of AB462, said the legislation would create a fraud unit within the state Consumer Affairs Division, require registration of all auto repair garages, establish a toll-free number to receive fraud complaints and a public service campaign to educate consumers.
The Nevada Consumer Affairs Division gets about 3,200 complaints a year -most having to do with auto service fraud rather than quality of service, she said.
The most common complaint she hears is that consumers are quoted one price for service and return to find the price has doubled.
Under current law, shops must give a written estimate unless consumers waive that right-which Ms. Chowning said most do because they don't know it's there.
Her measure would require that consumers pick one of three options on written estimates, though they could waive that right.
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Patricia Jarman told the committee that under current law, her hands are legally tied in most fraud cases. The commission can arbitrate on behalf of a consumer, but has no legal staff from the attorney general's office to file suit or conduct investigations.
Auto repair fraud is already covered in the state's Deceptive Practices Act.
The consumer division's request for funding in the executive budget for such a unit was denied.
Commerce Co-Chairman Larry Spitler, (D-Las Vegas) asked pointedly whether consumer affairs would lose part of its staff if this measure isn't passed, to which Ms. Jarman answered yes.
Eldon Hardy, an auto repair shop owner and head of the Nevada Association of Automotive Service Professionals, said that's the crux of the issue. He called the bill ``a blatant attempt to fund a failing government commission.''
The association recognizes fraud is a problem, and is working toward correcting it, he said, adding that remedies include private arbitration conducted by the Better Business Bureau, and possibly licensing mechanics. ``Let the industry, private enterprise take care of the problem,'' he said. ``The government just doesn't work.''