Auto Industry Not In Favor Of Proposed City Ordinance

Houston repair shop owners gathered at city hall to oppose an ordinance under consideration that would regulate the auto repair shop and collision shop industry. The city says it's meant to protect consumers. Repairers say the new rules would complicate operations.

City council has been trying to pass the Chapter 8 Ordinance for some time, and has gone through numerous revisions. The proposal would require repair and body shops to get permission before doing work that would add more than a $100 to customers’ initial estimates.

Kevin Spencer, who works at A&B Auto Electric, is president of the local chapter of the Automotive Service Association.

“I’m a service adviser. This ordinance gives the ability to the police department to come in and ask me for a box of invoices, to look through these invoices and find mistakes on an invoice, and give me a misdemeanor for each one, and charge me $200 to $500 for that. That scares me to death. The city needs revenue. They can come through, dig up these records and fine me, do all this — it shouldn’t happen that way.”

Council delayed vote on the ordinance late last year, because the administration tried to rush a 30 page document of changes to the measure. Janice Evans is a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.

“We have a stack of complaints that is less than a year’s worth of complaints, and while we know there are reputable companies out there that do work with their customers and do do a good job, there are those that don’t, and this is going to be aimed at them to try and protect their customers, so that when they drop that car off in the morning, they know what they’re gonna have to pay when they pick it up at the end of the day.”

Katherine Vander Pol is past president of the ASA. She and her husband operate a small auto repair shop. She thinks the ordinance should be re-written.

“The mayor’s office will tell you that they were first approached by this ordinance, not by the consumer, but by the insurance companies, and that insurance companies were the ones that wanted to regulate the body shops. This ordinance doesn’t just regulate body shops, it regulates new car dealerships. It regulates anybody that has a repair facility: tire,  transmission, muffler, body shops, everybody with the same brush. This is why we do not want this ordinance.”
She says while the proposed ordinance has improved since the association began working with the city, it believes further changes are necessary that would benefit consumers and the automotive service industry. The measure is up for a council vote in a couple of weeks.