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Consumer Alert

Can auto repair shops charge for ‘environmental’ services?

By Mitch Lipka
Globe Correspondent / July 5, 2009
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Q. I brought my 1990 Acura Integra to Prime Acura in Walpole for some adjustments and repairs. I was charged $283.50 for labor, $42.62 for parts, and $24.88 for environmental charges. My problem is with the environmental charges. A manager told me the state allows auto dealers to charge a percentage of the bill for that. To top it off, the dealer then charged sales tax on the environmental charges.

Arthur Handel
Stoughton

A. A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said his department doesn’t assess any fees for auto repairs. The attorney general’s office said it is unaware of any law that calls for such charges. So what is this charge and where does it come from?

Prime Acura’s general manager acknowledged this is not a government-related cost, but a cost of doing business that is being passed along to customers.

“All environmental charges are appropriately disclosed on the actual repair order and also in our service drives,’’ general manager Jay Dapolito said. Dapolito added that none of the fees are paid directly to any federal or state agencies.

“We are very conscious of how we dispose of and recycle the leftover hazardous waste accrued from the service and repair of each vehicle,’’ he said. “However, all these important processes have significant costs associated with them. Each service repair order includes a small fee to help offset the costs of properly disposing of service repair wastes including: motor oil, transmission fluid, coolant, oil filters, tires, brake linings, rotors, drums, drive belts, etc.’’

This isn’t just something this one dealership does. You’d be hard-pressed to find a repair shop that doesn’t assess the charge, which is simply a way of passing along a business expense to customers in way that makes the original charge look smaller. It’s how changing a set of tires can get $20 more expensive, or an advertised $19.95 oil change can become a $25 oil change. Next time you bring your car into the shop, when you get a price quote, ask how much you’ll be paying in “environmental fees.’’

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