Investigation

Broken Appliance? The Repair Tech Is Required to Disclose the Cost Upfront, but Not All Do 

The I-Team learned that repair techs may dodge state law, so it's good to know your rights. Some also have the authority to offer discounts.

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This story started inside our I-Team when a producer’s home refrigerator started acting up. She called the maker of the appliance and paid $130 for a tech to come out and diagnose the problem. 

The tech told her she needed a new rubber seal on her freezer door. The fix took just minutes. Then he handed her the bill: $215. 

“I was shocked. This is in addition to the $130 I had already paid. I knew the seal was just $50. So that meant, if he charged me 15 minutes of labor, the hourly labor rate was $600. Which seemed crazy,” she said.

The California Bureau of Household Goods and Services overseas complaints about large appliances. They shared some rights consumers have, by law, when an appliance repair tech comes to your home.

Written Estimate Is Required

First, before the repair work begins, the tech is required to provide a written estimate of the cost of the job. Our producer didn’t get this. 

“That estimate is going to be a breakdown of what they think is going to be required for the repair,” said Justin Paddock with the Bureau of Household Goods and Services.

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This estimate should include items like the cost of parts and labor. The tech isn’t required to break down the cost of labor, but Paddock said the tech should explain how it’s calculated. 

“That can be a little open to interpretation. But when I strictly just see a labor cost and nothing more, I'd pursue that as a potential violation of our regulations,” he said. 

Invoice Breakdown

When the repair is complete, the tech is required to give you an invoice, which should contain the company’s registration number with the state and a list of everything you paid for. Our producer’s paperwork didn't have that. 

If you have a tech who doesn’t follow these rules, you can file a complaint with Paddock’s office and they’ll investigate. 

“I get to look at three years of their records. And if I see three years of this, that would be a problem,” he said. 

Money Saving Tip

Finally, when our producer was surprised by her bill, the tech offered her a 25 percent discount, which she accepted. The maker of the refrigerator later told her that some techs have the authority to offer discounts. So the next time you have a repair, try negotiating the cost. 

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