California Parts Legislation Harmful to Consumers, Repair ShopsPosted 3/12/2006
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.
Advocates for the certification of replacement crash parts have recognized the disappointing results of voluntary national certification program participation and continue to promote their certification agenda at the state level. For several years, supporters of crash parts certification have made unsuccessful attempts to apply national certification models to state law. Several of these legislative or regulatory attempts have been in Midwestern states. Opposed by the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and vehicle manufacturers, these efforts have not been successful.
Recently, Ed Chavez, Bill Maze and Leland Yee, California Assembly members, introduced Assembly Bill 1852 addressing the certification of replacement crash parts in the state of California. Although the end goal of this legislation - state crash parts certification - is similar to previous state certification bills, there are two major differences: dilution of current consumer protections and new bureaucratic burdens for collision shop owners. ASA opposes Assembly Bill 1852.
No hearings or markups of the bill have been scheduled to date. Assembly Bill 1852 presents a negative view of collision repair facilities early in the findings of the legislation. The legislation highlights the following in the findings:
(b) The collision repair parts marketplace lacks competition. More than 80 percent of the marketplace is dominated by car company manufacturers.
(c) Without a competitive marketplace, consumers are unable to differentiate good parts from bad parts, and consumers are left with no quality assurance regarding the collision repair parts placed on their cars.
(d) Many collision repair part facilities add to this marketplace inequity - at the consumers' expense - because the financial incentives are greater when using expensive car company collision repair parts rather than certified collision repair part alternatives.
Actually, consumers find that their rights are diminished in this proposed legislation. The bill eliminates language in California law that provides a consumer's right to know. Current language states:
"No insurer shall require the use of nonoriginal equipment manufacturer crash parts in the repair of an insured's motor vehicle, unless the consumer is advised in a written estimate of the use of nonoriginal equipment manufacturer aftermarket crash parts before repairs are made. In all instances where nonoriginal equipment manufacturer crash parts are intended for use by an insurer: The written estimate shall clearly identify each such part with the name of its nonoriginal equipment manufacturer or distributor."
The loss of this provision ensures that consumers will know less about the repair of their vehicle, not more. Although the proposed legislation establishes a generic parts notification in the written estimate, the process as drafted could be more confusing to the consumer and less helpful.
ASA has encouraged a formal notice and written consent process for the use of replacement crash parts in vehicle repair. This consumer consent would apply to any crash parts used in the repair of the vehicle. ASA has distributed these consent forms and draft legislation at the International Autobody Congress and Exposition, via the ASA Web site and in the trade press for a number of years.
The bill establishes a system for the state to license certifiers. These certifiers are defined as "an independent third-party entity that certifies aftermarket collision repair parts to be of like kind and quality, in terms of safety, fit and performance, to car company collision repair parts."
What may be the most offensive provision to repair shop owners is the concept of daily reports, by shop owners, to a state agency:
(d) A collision repair facility shall, on a daily basis, report to the director any car company collision repair part or certified collision repair part that does not function as intended and is exchanged or returned to the manufacturer or distributor. This report shall include, but not be limited to, the transaction date, the name of the manufacturer, the serial, certification, or unique identifying number for the car company collision repair part or certified collision repair part, the type of car company collision repair part or certified collision repair part, the make, year and model for which the car company collision repair part or certified collision repair part was intended to serve as a replacement part, and a description of the defect. The director shall establish and maintain a Web site for this purpose and make it available to the public, licensed certifiers, car companies, collision repair part facilities, and distributors. For purposes of this section, "collision repair facility" means an auto body repair shop, as defined in Section 9889.51.
These mandated report requirements place an undue burden and extra expense on the repair facility. This policy proposal is flawed from the beginning with the assumption that all replacement crash parts are of relative equal quality and when this is not the case, the burden should be on the shop owner to address any concern. Should collision repairers have the additional responsibility of quality control for replacement crash parts?
ASA is not alone in its opposition to this legislation. Coalition partner, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, commented to California Assembly Committee on Business and Professions Chair Gloria Negrete McLeod that there were major problems with the legislation:
ASA is encouraging California repairers to contact their Assembly member and ask that they oppose Assembly Bill 1852. ASA urges repairers to go to ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com, to send a message directly to their representative to oppose the bill.
If parts certification advocates behave as in previous legislative cycles, repairers and consumers can look for additional bills to be introduced in other states that diminish consumer rights and place bureaucratic burdens on small businesses.
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