Rob Wright, of the California BAR, discusses the new Electronic Estimates and Authorization regulations.

BAR issues final regulations allowing electronic documentation and authorization

Shops now have electronic alternative for preparing a written estimate and obtaining a customer’s ‘wet’ signature authorization for automotive repairs

Sacramento, Calif.—In what Jack Molodanof, lobbyist for ASCCA, CAA, and CalABC, called “great news,” the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has adopted regulations allowing the use of modern technological means for work order authorizations for shops and customers to communicate and document repair decisions.

“The shop will no longer be required to create a written estimate or repair order, or be required to get a ‘wet’ signature on those, or the repair authorization order,” Molodanof said.

The primary reason for the new regulations was to allow for electronic authorizations (e.g. text messages) rather than wet signatures in order to streamline the estimating process for both consumers and shops.

“This is a good thing,” he said, “because now electronic signatures and other electronic communications such as text messages from consumers are legal and binding and help simplify the repair process.”

Previous authorization regulations allowed only electronic mail (e-mail), and facsimile transmission (fax) as a means of obtaining electronic authorization.

Electronic communication was redefined to more than simply email or fax, Molodanof said. “Now, it’s anything relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities, which ought to hold California repairers pretty well, even through wilder future technology.

“And, it’s a faster and more convenient way to get customer authorization to perform the repairs, and that’s a big reason why ASCCA, CAA, and CalABC all supported it when the regulation was first proposed.”

Rob Wright, BAR program representative II, field operations and enforcement division, at the Riverside field office, said, “What’s key in the regulation is that shops can now obtain an electronic signature via texting, email, and other electronic forms of communication, and provide their customers with electronic copies of the work order and final invoice.”

Wright said because shops must retain this information for three years, in accordance with BAR Record Retention Regulations, they can now store it electronically.

“Not everyone is comfortable with electronic communications,” he said. “So it must be noted that the digital process is purely voluntary and it is the responsibility of the shop to tell the customer if they have the option of a paper or electronic transaction.”

Revised definitions of transaction items affecting mechanical and collision repair shops, such as estimate, including how parts must be listed, authorization, diagnosis or work, and invoice, are also included in the text of the regulation, accessible at:

Johan Gallo, executive director of CalABC, said final approval by the BAR of the electronic document and authorization regulation is the culmination of a long, arduous process that started with a proposal he made to Chief Patrick Dorais almost eight years ago.

“There’s a lot more that still needs to be addressed in future updates and revisions to the new regulation,” Gallo said. “In the end we received far more than expected.”

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