While this specific litigation has been going on for several years, this final ruling ends decades of mischaracterizing recycled, OEM parts as aftermarket in the state of West Virginia.
In December 2011 the state of West Virginia filed a complaint and petition for injunction against Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Greg Chandler's Frame & Body, LLC, alleging that the defendants violated the state's Automotive Crash Parts Act and Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The car insurance company was repairing new vehicles using salvage crash parts without obtaining the written consent of the motor vehicle owner at the time of the repair. The Crash Parts Act requires body shops and insurance companies to disclose to vehicle owners the use of certain replacement crash parts in repairs conducted within three years of the repaired vehicle's original manufacture date, as well as written consent from the vehicle owner to use aftermarket crash parts and the distribution of a statutory notice to the owner that aftermarket crash parts have been used.
In a January 3, 2012 letter to then-Attorney General Darrell McGraw, ARA expressed disappointment about statements published by McGraw's office regarding "recycled"/"salvaged" automobile parts, specifically objecting to references classifying recycled/salvaged parts to "junkyard parts."
"The AG’s derogatory and misleading characterization of recycled/salvaged automobile parts does a disservice to consumers in West Virginia," said ARA in the letter. ARA also distinguished between aftermarket and recycled OEM parts, writing that "these quality “green” auto parts also meet the performance, safety, fit and durability standards of the OEM."
In a June 2014 opinion, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals considered the applications of the Crash Parts Act and the Consumer Credit and Protection Act and found neither statute prohibited body shops or insurers from utilizing recycled/salvaged parts. Moreover, they applauded the insurers for using measures to reduce premium costs for their customers.
The Court ruled that aftermarket crash parts and salvage/recycled OEM crash parts are diametrically different products and not interchangeable in the context of the statute. Thus, the use of salvaged/recycled OEM parts by Liberty Mutual and the collision repair shop did not violate the Crash Parts Act.
The lower court that ruled on January 12 originally ruled in favor of McGraw's office and the case went on appeal before state Supreme Court justices, who reversed the decision and sent it back to circuit court. Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King subsequently entered an order in favor of Liberty and the body shop owner, Greg Chandler of Greg Chandler's Frame & Body, LLC.
"Together, these ruling are a significant step forward for the professional automotive recycling industry and the increased utilization of genuine, recycled OEM parts," said ARA CEO Michael Wilson in response to the circuit court's ruling. "ARA applauds the West Virginia courts for recognizing the value of recycled OEM parts to automotive consumers, collision repairers and insurance companies, and for supporting the demonstrated role of professional automotive recyclers in today's automotive marketplace."
Since 1943, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) represents an industry dedicated to the efficient removal and reuse of “green” automotive parts, and the proper recycling of inoperable motor vehicles. ARA represents the interests of over 4,500 auto recycling facilities in the United States and fourteen other countries around the world. With programs such as the Certified Automotive Recycler Program (CAR), Green Recycled Parts, and other partnerships, ARA members continue to provide consumers with vehicle replacement parts, while preserving our environment.
To learn more about the Association, visit ARA’s Home Page at www.a-r-a.org or call (571) 208-0428.