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!

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Or you know, just pay for them to fix it and to not look at it first, why pay to diagnose a visible issue when they'll have to replace the screen as a complete piece, you may have to let them know if you want the surrounding plastic and/or hinge replaced as well - as using the existing one is subject to how badly the smashed screen was - may have damaged the cable's or LCD ribbon if it was bent/hyper extended/squashed.

    Any business can charge you if you ask them to do something for you that requires time and/or training to achieve - if it didn't you would just do it yourself and never have asked the question in the first place.

      Usually I get a quote to find out if it's a cheap fix or not.
      I don't want to say 'Yeah, just fix it' and then get handed a bill that's over half of the RRP.

    I used a popular tradie-booking service to organise some electrical work. I sent a description and photo of the work to be done so that they could decide whether or not to take the job. One electrical company sent someone out on a paid-quote basis. When he got to the door he said up front that he wasn't qualified to do the major item I needed quoted and also quoted on replacing rather than repairing another item without looking at it. WTF.
    I complained and got the quote fee refunded.

    One place I've used a couple of times will charge for a quote, but will credit the quote amount back if you take up their offer. The cynic in me says they must add the quote fee to the repair cost, but their repairs are good quality so I'll go back to them again.

      Often it isn't quite factored in. By quoting they have done a lot of the logistics. They know what materials and how much they need as well as labour and other items as opposed to turning up to the job then essentially quoting it then to find out.

    You get what you pay for. I'm amazed at how many people get a free quote for some kind of trade work, and then they complain when the project goes over budget. Do you really think the tradie is putting any effort into making an accurate quote if he's not paid for that time?

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