Sunday, 30 April 2006 10:00

Meetings in Sacramento lead to death of non-OEM parts bill

California collision repair industry professionals took matters into their own hands to impede the progress of AB 1852, the CAPA-sponsored non-OEM parts bill. Members of the California Auto Association (CAA) and several individual shop owners met in Sacramento with legislators to discuss the various legislative issues facing the auto body industry. 

Legislative Day, sponsored by CAA, brought together active members of the industry to speak one-on-one with legislators controlling their destiny. Gloria Negrete McLeod, chair of the committee on business and professions, along with other key members of the committee, listened as industry professionals expanded on the dangers of passing AB 1852.

The CAPA-sponsored bill would have declared that once non-OEM parts are certified by a state-approved certifying agency, they would be deemed "like kind and quality" to OEM crash parts. The bill would have set up state licensing for parts certifiers and required body shops to report defective parts to the state on a daily basis. It also proposed the repeal of Section 9875.1 of the California Business and Professions Code, which requires consumer disclosure before insurers may specify the use of non-OEM parts.

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Speaking out loudly for the collision repair industry, Gene Crozat, owner, G&C Autobody, Santa Rosa, used the analogy of a bad face lift to point out the real issue to McLeod.

"Suppose you had different surgeons working on each part of your face - one doing eyes, one doing cheek implants, another performing a nose job. If each of these procedures were a little bit off, the end result would be a face that was askew overall. This same thing can happen with automobiles that are repaired with aftermarket crash parts - a fender is a little bit off along with a door that doesn't quite fit tightly cause imperfections in the overall repair."

Using an automobile that was repaired with ill-fitting parts that would have been deemed "certified" by the legislation dramatically portrayed the possible consequences of this bill.

In early April, shortly after legislative day, Pablo Garza, consultant to the committee on business and professions, received a call from sponsoring senator Leland Yee's office saying they would not be requesting a hearing date for AB 1852 as it stood. Garza indicated that although other factors also may have been involved, the grassroots effort was significant in defeating the bill.

According to the Sacramento Bee, "Yee, facing prospects of a stiff legislative fight, said that he had derailed AB 1852 until critics' questions are resolved and consumer benefit assured. Yee said he does not expect to reactivate the bill this year, but he did not rule out the possibility." Yee had not responded to Autobody News at press time.

AB 1852 has officially been amended to deal with another subject altogether (mental health issues). The bill went through a process called "gut and amend," where a sponsoring legislator can take a bill that is already in the enactment process and change its purpose.

CAPA stays the course

"The postponement of AB 1852 is a temporary setback in a legislative effort designed to open the doors to the high quality, fairly priced alternatives to the expensive car company parts needed to repair Californians' cars after an accident, said CAPA's executive director, Jack Gillis. "Bipartisan Assembly sponsors, Speaker Pro-tem Leland Yee (D) and Bill Maze (R), recognized the plight of the California consumer and proposed AB 1852 as a way to reduce repair costs, improve repair quality, and protect consumers from poor quality parts. Their efforts have gone a long way to expose the parts monopoly and open the door to true choice and competition.

"Monopolies promote unfair prices. Ask any Californian who's had to pay $475 for the flimsy plastic cover on a front bumper and another $300 to put it on. (Compare that to buying a complete Dell computer with flat screen monitor for $379 that's ready to go when you plug it in.) In addition to encouraging fair prices, AB 1852 would have reduced the number of poor quality parts being put on consumer's vehicles.

"AB 1852 represents just the beginning in an effort to bring about competition. While most legislative efforts are years in the making, efforts surrounding AB 1852 have already achieved a number of objectives including: exposing the public to the importance of generic competition, educating numerous important lawmakers about the effects of the car company parts monopoly on consumers, and engaging a variety of regulatory and oversight organizations in California on the problem of both poor quality and monopoly pricing.

"While the car companies and their collision repair shop colleagues may believe they have successfully halted this effort to foster competition, we remain convinced that California consumers want both fairly priced and high quality crash repair parts. We will continue on a number of fronts to overcome the powerful lobbies seeking to maintain the monopolistic status quo - a position that fosters neither fair prices nor quality products."

Grass roots effort at its best

When all is said and done, California's collision repair industry can declare victory for its efforts.

"The CAA had a very good turnout for... Legislative Day at the Capitol and I want to thank all the CAA members who participated," stated CAA president Ron Guilliams. "It just goes to show you how if you believe in an issue and work hard to communicate your position, a grass roots effort can be very effective."