ORLANDO, Fla. - A local woman claims a repair shop has refused to return her car for the past six months even though she paid for repairs in advance.
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Action 9's consumer investigator Todd Ulrich helped her get the car back, and tells us how any consumer can force a repair shop to turn over your vehicle.
An accident crushed Keyla Torres' car's front end.
The insurance quickly settled her claim and the auto body shop promised repairs in seven days, Torres said.
“He's refusing to give me the vehicle. He keeps giving me excuses after excuses,” she said.
Six months after Torres paid Express Autobody $3,500 up front, she still had no car.
She asked for the invoice that first day.
“He says his computer system was down and he will be emailing me a receipt the same day," Torres said. "It never happened."
Torres and her family were struggling without a car so she called Action 9.
Ulrich couldn't find anyone at Express Autobody in Orlando.
State laws requires a shop to return customers' vehicles in a reasonable amount of time. If not, a customer can pay a bond to the clerk of court.
“The clerk is supposed to issue a certificate allowing the customer to get the car back, and there are stiff penalties if that doesn't happen,” said consumer attorney Taras Rudnitsky.
Before Torres could do that, we found the garage door open at Express Autobody and her BMW was partially repaired.
There was no sign of the owner but Todd Ulrich reached him on his cellphone.
“I don't know why you're there,” the owner said on the phone.
“Six months later she still doesn't have a car, that's why I'm here,” Ulrich replied.
“It took three months to settle her claim on her car and get the cash to pay for it,” the business owner said.
“That's not her story, that's not her story Jimmie,” Ulrich said.
The shop owner would not tell Todd Ulrich his last name.
Action 9 arranged for Torres to pick up her car with some body work and painting still not done.
She's demanding a partial refund.
“It's just very stressful,” Torres said.
According to the Florida Division of Consumer Services, Express Autobody is not a licensed car repair shop and that’s a red flag whenever someone is trying to choose a repair company.
Customers should also consider including in the written estimate the time it will take to repair your vehicle.
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