SOS tightens enforcement on unlicensed auto shops

SOS tightens enforcement on unlicensed auto shops

LANSING, Mich. – A 30-year-old Detroit woman who says she lost her job for repeatedly being late to work because the mechanic who was supposed to fix her Jeep instead damaged it further says her story should prompt others to make sure the facility they’re using is licensed.

The story illustrates the risk consumers can face when trusting mechanics or facilities that are not licensed or regulated, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said today in announcing that nine unlicensed auto repair facilities are now closed for business in Michigan. The move is part of an investigative crack down dubbed “Operation Torque Wrench” to tighten enforcement on illegal shops.

“Unlicensed auto repair shops and uncertified mechanics pose a serious threat to motorists,” Johnson said. “A bungled brake or alignment job could cause the driver to lose control, causing an injury – or worse. Customers expect that auto repairs will be done safely by people trained to do the job. We’re taking action to ensure those expectations are enforced to the full extent of the law.”

In partnership with local and state law enforcement agencies, Johnson took action against the repair facilities after:

  • Identifying facilities based on complaints from consumers, law enforcement and local government agencies.
  • Partnering with law enforcement agencies to visit the facilities to verify the information provided.
  • Providing information and assistance to come into compliance.
  • Shutting down the facilities unwilling to take the necessary steps to become registered.

Investigators visiting the affected facilities confirmed that unlicensed repair work was being performed or found uncertified mechanics working on vehicles.

Johnson’s department issued cease-and-desist orders to the nine repair facilities, prohibiting them from performing any further automotive repairs until they come into compliance with Michigan law. Under state law, someone who knowingly provides automotive repair services without a registration or certificate is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Johnson thanked the 13 police agencies across the state who participated in Operation Torque Wrench, which included the Michigan State Police.

“This criminal behavior can result in real life-threatening consequences for unsuspecting motorists,” said Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue. “Together with the Secretary of State’s Office, we are saying loudly and clearly that Michigan does not tolerate those who violate the law.”

Michigan has more than 9,000 registered repair facilities. Secretary of State investigators monitor these shops, conducting compliance inspections to verify that the facilities and their mechanics are operating as authorized under the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Act.

But Johnson said her office needs more tools to better protect consumers from illegal repair shops, so she’s encouraging lawmakers to pass House Bills 4343 and 4344 without delay. The bills strengthen and clarify the rules for automotive repair facility owners and the oversight provided by the Secretary of State’s Office. The legislation also allows the Secretary of State to enhance penalties for unlicensed repair shops, similar to how the state enforces unlicensed auto dealers.

Consumers with concerns about an automotive repair facility, mechanic, or the work done on a vehicle are encouraged to first discuss the issues with the facility management. If no resolution can be reached, consumers may file an automotive complaint form with the Secretary of State so that a formal review can be initiated. Forms are available on the Secretary of State website at www.michigan.gov/sos by searching for “automotive complaint form” and may be submitted online, by mail or fax.

Johnson encourages consumers to always confirm that the repair shop they are using is registered with the state and is licensed to perform the type of automotive work needed. A facility that is properly registered and that has certified mechanics will have the certificates prominently displayed in the shop as required.

The announcement comes as part of Johnson’s efforts to enhance her office’s consumer protection efforts, which include the creation of the Office of Investigative Services to inspect and regulate automotive-related businesses.

As for the Detroit woman whose Jeep was never repaired, a new job and car have meant being able to take her son and daughter to and from school.

Affected facilities below:

Kent County
Armando Fierro Auto, 1549 Chicago Dr., Wyoming
AutoMex, 1549 Chicago Dr., Wyoming

Lapeer County
Expert Restoration, 4704 Baldwin Rd., Metamora

Macomb County
Quick Lube, 111 N. Groesbeck Hwy., Mt. Clemens

Muskegon County
Walter Kinsey, 2076 N. Getty Rd., Muskegon

Schoolcraft County
Bergy’s Auto Repair, 6256 W. US Highway 2, Manistique
David Sundling, 4921 W. US Highway 2, Manistique

St. Joseph County
Southside Customs and Auto Sales, 419 S. Main Street, Three Rivers

Wayne County
Mahdin Auto Sale, 4114 E. Davison St., Detroit

[Information and logo courtesy Secretary of State Ruth Johnson]