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Huge body shop bill, but no repairs?

Published July 17, 2013
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Recently, my 87-year-old uncle was in a crash in his new 2012 Civic. Since his preferred repair shop was closed at the time, Sisley Honda, the selling dealer, recommended their exclusive body shop, Triple Crown, whose office is inside their dealership.

When we first requested the release of the car, the towing charge was $966 and Triple Crown was entitled to $120 for two days storage. But, instead, they had him sign a blank work order, which he thought was the release.

They delayed providing receipts for 10 days and kept billing for storage. We complained to the Better Business Bureau and local police.

Economical Insurance agreed to pay the bill of $2,138 plus tax, except for a $400 “admin fee” my uncle would pay, but Triple Crown refused to release the car, even if paid in full, unless we wrote a letter clearing their name with the BBB.

Since we wouldn’t agree to this, they added another $1,000 and charged $3,228. No repairs were done. The vehicle was towed away.

Hugh Sisley, president of Sisley Honda, replies:

Apparently, the customer interpreted a request for payment prior to releasing the vehicle as a refusal to release the vehicle. Triple Crown was entitled to reimbursement for storage fees, tear down fee, and towing bills paid on his behalf. Had those fees been paid, the vehicle would have been released on April 3 (two days after arrival).

The tow truck involved isn’t affiliated with Triple Crown and the vehicle was brought there at the customer’s direction. Neither Triple Crown, nor Sisley Honda solicited him to bring it there, nor knew it was coming.

The insurance appraiser inspected the vehicle at Triple Crown.

Triple Crown’s posted storage rate is $150 per day. Economical Insurance pays $60 per day maximum. Triple Crown reduced its storage rate, so the customer wouldn’t be out of pocket.

I understand the police attended Triple Crown, found no wrongdoing, and were unable to assist.

Economical Insurance paid all costs, except for the towing amount exceeding coverage.

Sisley Honda has no financial involvement in Triple Crown Collision. We’ve used them for over 20 years and recommend them to our clients.

Eric Lai adds:

Triple Crown Auto Collision in Concord was invited to comment, but no reply was received. An online check found three customer reviews posted; all are negative.

Economical Insurance confirms the total billed on April 11 was $2,138, plus tax, but Triple Crown wanted a letter to BBB before releasing the vehicle.

Triple Crown’s final bill lists an “Admin fee” of $400, storage of $660 (11 days @ $60), and $220 (4 hours @ $55) labour — although no work is specified, nor any parts listed. Towing is $1,577. Grand total after tax is $3,228.41.

Our reader says police opened an investigative file, but advised him it would take some time.

In general, Ontario’s Consumer Ministry warns against signing a blank work order, as it’s difficult to prove that items subsequently listed weren’t authorized.

Check with the municipal licensing office where the crash occurred, as tow truck rates may be regulated.

Small claims court might be another option.

Got a beef? Send it to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Include year, make, model and kilometres of autos cited, plus your name, address and telephone number. Personal replies cannot be handled due to volume.

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