by Jacques Gordon
The state of California has officially adopted the term “Wallet Flush.” In a 30-page draft, John Wallauch, Chief of California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), has presented “An Automotive Industry Review” that declares “A Wallet Flush is an automotive service or product that provides little to no benefit to the consumer and is sold without disclosing that fact.”
The BAR is part of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and it has the authority to mediate consumer complaints about auto repair shops and/or refer cases to law enforcement authorities. The BAR Website indicates that these activities annually result in “approximately $6.3 million being returned to consumers in the form of direct refunds, rework of the vehicle at no charge, or adjustments to the final bill.”
Indeed the BAR is a powerful and (often begrudgingly) respected arm of the state government, and it definitely influences the way repair shops conduct their business in California. But to officially recognize and use the term “Wallet Flush” has implications for the whole industry.
In the draft, Wallauch points out that “the starting point for industry repair standards” should be the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedules. After describing a number of commonly-sold services that rarely if ever appear on the OEM maintenance schedule, Wallauch specifically states that the Bureau is “not worried about what you sell as much as how it is sold!”
While many aftermarket products and services are not OEM-recommended and may even void the manufacturer’s warranty, the draft admits that some products and services are “an industry-recognized solution” to specific problems or maintenance issues. In these cases a service dealer “has the duty to justify the need,” and the justification “must be based on objective criteria.” So the BAR has no objection to selling non-OEM recommended products and services, but a shop must be able to clearly explain to the customer why it’s needed.
By codifying the term “Wallet Flush” the BAR reminds service dealers that they can be cited for misleading a customer into purchasing something they don’t really need. The BAR is also proposing a consumer brochure called “Is Someone Trying to Flush your Wallet?” that says a Wallet Flush “is money that you don’t need to spend to maintain your vehicle.” It describes a number of unnecessary services, among them an air conditioning flush and cabin air filter replacement.
It’s not hard to justify replacing a cabin air filter when it’s really needed, but do you know how and when to justify flushing an A/C refrigerant system when that job is not on any OEM maintenance schedule? Even if your shop is not in California, Mr. Wallauch’s use of the term “Wallet Flush” may prompt your customer to question your recommendation, and rightly so. Read the draft carefully, especially the customer brochure. Learn how to answer the questions for yourself before recommending a job that isn’t on the OEM maintenance schedule. And in the interest of spreading the word about “an industry-recognized solution,” consider sharing your thoughts here.
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When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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