Licensing Draft Fails to Consider Consumers, Repairers
ASA opposes Houston's proposed shop licensing regulation.
The city of Houston has proposed a shop licensing regulation that goes too far. The Automotive Service Association (ASA) has been a longtime supporter of shop licensing, but Houston's draft goes beyond the pale.
The draft being considered by Houston's city council was developed without the input of a stakeholder group balanced with consumers and independent repairers. Problems with the draft range from excessive licensing fees to concerns with equipment requirement provisions that were excluded from the proposal.
The work of some local government officials and the Houston police department, the proposed regulation failed to reach consensus because of the lack of independent repairer and consumer input. Even the most remedial parts of the proposal that should have differentiated between mechanical and collision repairers did not occur.
ASA has supported licensing initiatives in Florida, Ohio and even the state of Texas, but critical to successful efforts in Florida and Ohio were repairer and consumer input.
The terminology, equipment requirements, training requirements, repair processes, administrative procedures, etc., all demand some knowledge of the independent repair profession. Without significant input from repairers, it is unlikely any licensing proposal can be developed that works successfully in the aftermarket. After years of input, focus groups, and dialogue with policymakers, Florida and Ohio repairers developed licensing initiatives that became law and were supported by repairers and consumers. Texas repairers spent countless hours drafting a statewide licensing proposal several years ago that would have served both repairers and consumers well if it had become law.
Regarding the Houston proposal, in a letter to the Houston mayor and city council, ASA commented: "ASA believes that many of our concerns could have been avoided if the city had included independent repairers in early stakeholder meetings. There are critical differences in the operations of collision and mechanical repair facilities. Jurisdictions have addressed both professions in licensing laws and it can be done in Houston. The city's current proposal does not adequately address the differences in collision and mechanical repair facilities."
Some of the highlights of ASA's suggested changes to the council's draft licensing proposal are:
• The definition of "automotive repair facility" should include hobbyists. Excluding hobbyists will create potential loopholes that some repairers may take advantage of, thus making law enforcement's job more difficult.
• Collision and mechanical repairers should be allocated to two separate positions on the automotive board.
• The licensing fee schedule is excessive. ASA proposes a more equitable licensing fee schedule based on the number of employees in the repair facility.
• Federal law has stringent equipment requirements for collision repair facilities. These provisions should be referenced in the regulation, specifically requiring the use of auto refinishing spray booths for collision repair facilities.
ASA leaders in Houston have made themselves available for meetings with the city council to establish a licensing regulation that will work for consumers and repairers. Local repairers are writing letters and offering comments to the council during consideration of the regulation.
Although the number of state licensing programs for independent repairers is few, ASA surveys continue to reflect a strong interest by repairers in having substantive licensing programs at the state level. Having stakeholder groups, comprised of consumers and independent repairers, early in the process ensures that regulatory or legislative proposals will have the support of those groups most impacted by the new rule's implementation.
To view the proposed Houston regulation, please go to ASA's legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com.
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