If a car dealership gives me a service invoice for 0 when I pick up my vehicle, can they request payment the following day?

I have a vehicle that was at a dealership for some costly services not even 500
miles outside of my bumper to bumper warranty. I’ve been dealing with the
manufacturer directly to try and resolve the issue of paying such high dollar
repairs so close to my warranty expiration. The repairs were completed and when I
went to pickup my vehicle, the invoice was 0. I asked if I owed any money and
the lady said ‘No, looks like it was covered under warranty.’ The following day, the
dealership called telling me that they were mistaken and that I need to come back
to them in order to pay for the repairs or they will send me to collections. Can they
do this?

Asked on October 31, 2018 under Business Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The law disfavors "unjust enrichment", which is what this would be if you do not pay. The fact is that a person (or entity) cannot keep a good, service or money that they are not entitled to. Accordingly, if you should have paid for the service at the time it was rendered since your warranty had already expired, then you need to do so now.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they can: the law is very clear that a mistake does not let you receive and keep services, goods, or money that you are not otherwise entitled to, so if you were past the warranty and should have paid, they can now invoice you; if you don't pay, they could sue. It works both ways: if they had charged you while you were under warranty and you later realized you should not have paid, they would have had to return the money or credit you later.

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