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AGLO 1979 No. 32 - September 25, 1979
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

AUTOMOBILES ‑- MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- PRICE ESTIMATES FOR CERTAIN AUTOMOTIVE REPAIRS

The requirement that an offer be made to supply a written price estimate in the case of automotive repairs is limited to those types of automotive repairs which are specifically included in the definition contained in RCW 46.71.010(2)(a) and (b).

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                                                              September 25, 1979

Honorable J. T. Quigg
State Senator, 19th District
420 Public Lands Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1979 No. 32

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested our opinion on the following two questions:

            1.         Is the requirement that an offer be made to supply a written price estimate limited to the types of automotive repairs which are specifically included in RCW 46.71.010(2)(a) and (b)?

            2.         If your answer to the above question is "no", what other types of automotive repairing are included within the definition of RCW 46.71.010(2)(a) so as to be subject to the requirement that an offer be made to provide a written price estimate?

            We answer your first question in the affirmative thereby rendering consideration of your second question unnecessary.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 46.71 RCW codifies the provisions of chapter 280, Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., and relates to automotive repairs.  A principal feature of the law is contained in RCW 46.71.040 which reads as follows:

            "(1) If the price is estimated to exceed fifty dollars, the automotive repairman shall, prior to the commencement of supplying any parts or the performance of any labor, provide the customer a written estimate or the following choice of estimate alternatives:

                        "'YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A WRITTEN PRICE ESTIMATE FOR THE REPAIRS YOU HAVE AUTHORIZED.  YOU ARE ALSO ENTITLED TO REQUIRE THE REPAIRMAN TO OBTAIN YOUR ORAL OR WRITTEN CONSENT TO EXCEED THE WRITTEN PRICE ESTIMATE.  YOUR SIGNATURE OR INITIALS WILL INDICATE YOUR SELECTION.

            "1. I request an estimate in writing before you begin repairs.  Contact me if the price will exceed this estimate by more than ten percent.

            " . . . . . . . . . . .

            "2. Proceed with repairs but contact me if the price will exceed $ . . . . . . . . .

             "3. I do not want a written estimate. . . . . . . . . . . . '

            "These alternatives shall not be required when the customer's motor vehicle has been brought to the automotive repairman without face‑to-face contact between the customer and the automotive repairman or the repairman's representative.

            "(2) If the customer signs or initials alternative 1 or if none of the alternatives is signed or initialed by the customer, the automotive repairman shall,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] prior to supplying any parts or performing any labor, give to the customer a written price estimate for the labor and parts necessary for the specific repair requested.  The repairman may not charge for work done or parts supplied which are not a part of the written price estimate and may not charge the customer more than one hundred ten percent of the total shown on the written price estimate:  PROVIDED, That neither of these limitations shall apply if, prior to performing the additional labor and/or supplying the additional parts, the repairman obtains either the oral or written authorization of the customer to exceed the written price estimate."

            RCW 46.71.010(1) defines an "automotive repairman" as follows:

            "'Automotive repairman' means a person who engages in the business of repairing and/or diagnosing malfunctions of motor vehicles for compensation; . . ."

            The term "automotive repairing," in turn, is also specifically defined in RCW 46.71.010(2) as follows:

". . .

            "(2) 'Automotive repairing' includes:

            "(a) All repairs to vehicles commonly performed in a repair shop by a motor vehicle mechanic including the installation, exchange, or repair of mechanical parts or units for any vehicle or the performance of any electrical or mechanical adjustment to any vehicle;

            "(b) All work performed in shops that are limited to any specialty within the automotive repair trade including but not limited to body, frame, front-end, brake repair, transmission, tune‑up, and electrical repair work and muffler installation; and

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

"(c) 'Automotive repairing' should not include the change or repair of tires; the lubrication of vehicles; the installation of light bulbs, batteries, windshield wiper blades, and other minor accessories; the cleansing, adjustment, and replacement of spark plugs; the replacement of fan belts, oil and oil filters; and other minor services which are customarily performed by gasoline service stations."

            Interestingly, however, this latter term‑-although thus expressly defined‑-is nowhere used in the later substantive provisions of the law, including RCW 46.71.040(1), supra.  Nor was it ever even used in any earlier versions of the 1977 bills (S.B. 2445 and S.S.B. 2445) from which the law originated.  Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to us to conclude that the legislature intended the scope of application of the statute to be circumscribed by the definition section, RCW 46.71.010, for otherwise there would appear to be no reason for including those definitions in the statute.  It must be presumed that the legislature does not engage in vain or useless acts.  State v. Wanrow, 88 Wn.2d 221, 559 P.2d 548 (1977) and cases cited therein.  For that reason it is our opinion that the legislature did not here intend the statute's requirements of a written estimate to apply to other types of activities, by an automobile repairman, which are not included within the definition of "automotive repairing."  We therefore answer your first question, as above stated, in the affirmative (i.e., the requirement of RCW 46.71.040 is so limited), thereby rendering consideration of your second question unnecessary.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


THOMAS L. BOEDER
Senior Assistant Attorney General

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