H.R. 2735: A Peer's PerspectivePosted 4/14/2004
By Donald L. "Donny" Seyfer, AAM
The topic of H.R. 2735 has been debated among shop owners, technicians, suppliers, manufacturers and even industry associations. Recently, I was very disturbed to find full-page ads in many of our industry trade magazines bashing ASA in an effort to support their position on H.R. 2735. It was a cheap shot and I wrote the groups behind the ads and told them so. Fortunately, recent developments seem to indicate that a different perspective may be developing and that these adversarial positions may be softening into an "agree to disagree" position. I hope so. In that spirit, I would like to point out a few things about the ASA/OEM agreement and the current situation with H.R. 2735 - from my point of view. Don't just take my word for it. Read them for yourself and make your own decisions. As Lance Buckner from Parts and People says, "Be a journalist and ask questions."
In my view, H.R. 2735 was a useful tool in getting the automakers to come to the bargaining table. But in its current form, H.R. 2735 has the ability - if passed - to destroy the very industry it is trying to protect. There are serious patent law infringement implications. If this bill passed, it could start a landslide of patent owners having their rights taken away simply because someone else thought they should get their "fair share" of the product's profits. This would result in economic nightmares. Why would companies or investors develop new technology if they cannot expect a decent return on investment? That is not the American way. Whether the intent of H.R. 2735 is to get access to patented parts information is debatable, but I am not going to debate it. I believe that drum has been beaten to death.
The final concern I have with H.R. 2735 being passed is that it takes the power to define the needs of auto repair professionals out of our hands and puts it into the hands of the government. I think it is reasonable to say that no decision maker at the Federal Trade Commission is an ASE-certified master technician, and when did "I am from the government and I am here to help you" ever make something cost less?
The debate over ASA's stand against H.R. 2735 is not as complex as it may sound. The ASA service information agreement letter states: "This commitment will continue the viability of the automotive service industry and preclude the need for current legislation while we work on implementation. Moreover, successful implementation will eliminate the need for future state and federal legislation."
The way I read that, it would be counterproductive to continue with legislation when the agreement says we don't think we need it. So when members of Congress ask Bob Redding if H.R. 2735 is needed, I think it is safe to assume he indicates our current agreement precludes any need for legislation. Is that lobbying against H.R. 2735? No, I think that is another political spin cooked up by lobbyists who have to rationalize the huge amount of money they have thrown at passing a bill legislators such as Colorado's own Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell told me has no chance of passage. Campbell was very supportive, as were all of the Colorado legislators I talked with in 2002. Most suggested we try to work it out without a law. Well, so far we have.
Today I have access to a Web site with information I need to repair every late-model car I work on. The process is not perfect yet, but it is much better than what we had before. I implore you to use these tools, bookmark www.nastf.org and keep up to date. If you cannot find information that is mission critical for your shop, work with NASTF to get it resolved.
The bottom line is this: I believe it would not be prudent to continue pursuing passage of H.R. 2735. I strongly urge you to study the pros and cons of such legislation - and if you do, I think you will agree it is not in the best interest of the industry.
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