A Guide for Consumers:
What to Expect if you File a Complaint Against a DMV Regulated Automotive Business
Filing Your Complaint
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles regulates all Repair Shops, Inspection Stations, Dealers, Vehicle Dismantlers and other related businesses in NYS. To legally operate as such a business, they must register with DMV. Once their application is approved, they will receive a facility certificate from DMV. Approved businesses must follow all consumer protection laws and regulations.
DMV has established a consumer complaint process in case you have a complaint against a dealer, inspection station, repair shop, or dismantler. Initially, you should make an attempt to resolve the complaint with the facility management right away. If you are not successful, you are advised to contact the DMV Consumer & Facilities Services Complaint Unit.
Note: We cannot take action against a facility unless we can find adequate evidence to substantiate the claim. Additionally, if the facility does not have a current registration, there are limitations on any fines and penalties that may be recovered.
For More Information, obtain a copy from any DMV office or from the DMV website at dmv.ny.gov.
- Know Your Rights In Auto Repair (C -17)
- Let The Buyer Be Aware (C-18)
- A Consumer Guide to Readiness Monitor Failures as Part of the New York State Vehicle Inspection Program (C-114)
- New York State Vehicle Safety/Emissions Inspection Program (C-50)
The Complaint Process
All complaints must be submitted in writing to DMV on the Vehicle Safety Complaint Report (VS-35). Note: There is a 90-day limit on reporting incidents related to a NYS Repair Shop. We cannot accept complaints against Repair Shops beyond the 90-day or 3,000 mile (whichever comes first) limit.
You can obtain a copy of the Complaint Report from the DMV web site. Once your complaint has been filed, a Consumer Services Representative (CSR) from DMV will be assigned to handle your complaint and will try to resolve it. There are several stages for resolving a complaint:
- The CSR may contact the facility in an attempt to resolve this complaint. The CSR will explain the nature of the complaint and will also inform the facility of their rights as well as their responsibilities. If the complaint is resolved at this level, you will hear back from the CSR. This process can take six to eight weeks from the date the complaint is received.
- If the CSR is unable to resolve the complaint, the case will be sent to an Automotive Facilities Inspector (AFI) for a formal investigation. This process, called the Investigation Process, can take several weeks, to several months to resolve.
DMV receives over 6,000 consumer complaints each year.
Investigation and Hearing Process
Once the case is assigned to an AFI, he/she will contact you in order to gather all information for a formal investigation. The result of the investigation may be no action, a warning letter placed in the facility's file, or a formal Administrative Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
If there is a hearing before an ALJ, and it is determined that there were violations, there may be action against the facility. This may include suspending or revoking their registration and/or imposing fines. The Judge may offer the facility the option of paying restitution, in lieu of part of the penalty, but it cannot force them to pay. Restitution will only cover the amount you were overcharged or the cost of proper repairs. Incidental losses, such as costs associated with car rentals, transportation, etc. cannot be recovered. Additionally, the consumer has no right to appeal but may go to the Civil Court system. However, no restitution will be considered if you file with Small Claims Court prior to the hearing.
The facility may hire a lawyer and bring that lawyer to the hearing. The facility may also appeal any adverse decision. In addition, an AFI will be there to represent DMV.
Occasionally, a DMV Attorney may be there to present the case on behalf of DMV. Since these Hearings are considered a public hearing, a complainant may bring an attorney but that attorney will not be allowed to examine the witnesses. The complainant is not considered a party to the hearing but is considered a valuable witness at the hearing.
If the facility fails to pay any fines or penalties imposed by the Judge, a lien will be placed against their business. They will be asked to surrender their business documents to DMV. If they do not comply, an AFI will be sent to their place of business to collect these documents and their privilege to operate as a business in NYS may be suspended. You will be notified of the final disposition of the complaint. Please be patient. This process could take up to a year to resolve.
Possible Complaint Outcomes
If there is a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge may offer the facility the option of paying restitution in lieu of more severe penalties. DMV cannot force a shop to pay restitution.
Filing a complaint with DMV does not prevent you from seeking help from other consumer protection agencies or from taking the shop to court on your own. However, if you receive a court settlement or one is pending, restitution is not available through DMV.
IMPORTANT: Please notify the Complaint Unit if you move or change your phone number.
Phone: 1-518-474-8943 · Fax: 1-518-486-4102
Office of Vehicle Safety & Clean Air
Consumer & Facility Services Bureau
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Barbara J. Fiala, Commissioner
VS-156 (5/07) Edited for the Internet (6/14)
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