Ask LH: Are Companies Allowed To Charge A Fee For Making A Quote?

Dear Lifehacker, Recently, the LCD on my digital camera cracked. (I had just bought the camera in February.) I contacted the manufacturer and they said that I can send it in, pay an “assessment fee” and then get a quote for how much it would cost to fix the camera. I understand cracked screens are not covered by warranty, but is paying to get a quote legal? Thanks, Nimara

Broken camera image via Shutterstock

Dear Nimara,

Under Australian consumer law, businesses are entitled to charge a fee for providing a product repair quote even if you ultimately decline their services. This isn’t too unusual when you consider the amount of effort it takes to properly assess a damaged camera. Time is money, as they say.

As explained in this NT Consumer Affairs fact sheet:

It is quite legitimate for a fee to be charged for a quote to be given. Often preparing a quote means the item has to be pulled apart and tested which can be time consuming for the service agent. The quote fee is usually taken off the account if you decide to go ahead with the repairs.

And here’s what NSW Fair Trading has to say:

Where a repairer spends time carrying out and providing a detailed diagnosis but you decide not to carry out the repair, the repairer is entitled to charge a fee for the diagnosis.

While a lot of manufacturers provide free quotes as a gesture of good will to the customer, they’re under no legal obligation to do this; just as retailers don’t “have” to refund returned goods if there’s nothing wrong with the product.

The only rule is that they need to tell the customer about the quote fee upfront, which this company has done. If you want to get the camera repaired by the manufacturer, you’ll just have to cough up and pay the fee.

With that said, it shouldn’t be too difficult finding a third-party merchant who provides repair quotes free of charge. Just have a look around online and make some phone calls with local repair shops. Alternatively, you can try repairing the crack yourself or assess whether it makes more financial sense to buy a new camera. Good luck!


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