(WMC TV) - Hunter Jessen said he would likely do business again with Aamco Transmissions, 1261 Getwell Rd.
That is, as long as it doesn't take almost half a year to get his car back again.
"I was thinking two, three weeks max (for a transmission replacement)," Jessen said. "Five months later, I got my car back."
Jessen's dilemma with the transmission shop illustrates a little known right Tennessee consumers have when a repair shop keeps your property for an unreasonable length of time.
According to Tennessee law, consumers can sue for what's called unjust enrichment or trespass to chattel when repair shops hold their vehicles essentially hostage.
"Basically, it's a conversion of your property to somebody else that they have no lawful right to obtain for that period of time," said Kevin Snider, a Germantown, TN, consumer attorney and certified fraud examiner. "It is essentially theft, in the civil form."
Other little-known rights of auto repair:
* In Tennessee, a shop cannot charge you more than 25 percent of your written estimate without your consent. Get that estimate in writing BEFORE any work is authorized!
* Also in Tennessee, any repairs performed that were not authorized by the consumer should be free:
TN Code Annotated 66-19-104. Duty to Inform Consumer of Rights: "...any repairs not originally authorized by the consumer may not be charged (emphasis added) without that consent…"
* You are entitled to your old parts after they have been replaced -- with a core charge assessed to recoup what the manufacturer would have gained in recycling the parts.
"If they have questions as far as whether or not a part was put on or whether a part was actually bad, they have the right to have their old part," said Scott Westbrook, owner and chief mechanic of Westbrook Automotive, Inc., 3966 Winchester Rd. "But there will be a 'core charge' assessed to the owner."
* Shop owners may charge a diagnostic fee even if the consumer does not give consent to repair the diagnosed problem.
"Sometimes, the diagnostics to find the problem can actually be more time-consuming and more expensive than the repair itself," said Westbrook.
Back at the Aamco on Getwell Rd., owner Hassan Najdawi apologized to Jessen.
In a letter to the Better Business Bureau, he accepted responsibility for the delay in repairing and returning Jessen's vehicle. He explained that one of his builders installed the wrong part.
Apparently, it took nearly a half-year to secure the right one.
In a statement to Action News 5, he said:
"Dear Mr. Wise:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the unusual and unfortunate circumstance surrounding Mr. Jessen's Volkswagen.
There is absolutely nothing to be gained by our shop delaying the delivery of a transmission repair for any length of time. In general, most vehicles we service are delivered promptly and in excellent working order. Occasionally, a situation may arise where a particular technical problem defies our proven expertise and an unanticipated delay arises. Such a situation is unintended and one we truly regret. In Mr. Jessen's case, we agreed to reduce our parts and labor costs substantially and apologized for the delay. Mr. Jessen accepted our discount, as well as our apology, and we are confident that he will enjoy many miles of trouble free driving with his reconditioned transmission.
I trust that my response is helpful and I respectfully decline any further on or off camera interviews."
"I'd always been under the impression that there isn't a whole lot you can do when they keep your car at a shop," Jessen said. "Now that I know (about unjust enrichment/trespass to chattel), maybe I would use that if I did contact a lawyer."
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