Tuesday, 26 April 2011 16:25

CA Senate Passes Airbag Fraud Bill Doubling Potential Penalties

California Senate Bill 869 was passed in committee (9-0) on April 25. The bill modifies the state's Business and Professions Code saying that a repairer who "fails to repair and fully restore the airbag to its original operating condition," where the customer has paid for the airbag as provided in the estimate, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $5,000 or by one year in prison, or both. Existing law caps penalties at $1,000, by imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or by both fine and imprisonment.

It is already fraudulent and a violation of the Automotive Repair Act to state on an invoice that an auto repair shop will repair or replace a part if it fails to do so. This bill strengthens the existing penalties on that violation specifically for airbags which are being replaced.

The Senate analysis of the measure suggests that possibly in the future some consideration should be given to strengthening the law even further. The analysis asks, "Should there be a requirement to repair or replace a deployed airbag?" Currently, there are no statutes requiring that an auto repair shop replace a deployed air bag, but the analysis suggests a law requiring that any vehicle entering an auto repair shop which has a deployed airbag must leave that repair shop in good working order.

A previous bill SB 427, tabled in 2009 would have established the same misdemeanor with the same penalties for a violation as this bill and would have additionally required the parts invoice for any replacement airbag installed to be attached to the final repair invoice. That bill was vetoed by the Governor, citing that it was duplicative of existing law and, therefore, added very little additional benefit to consumers.

The California Autobody Association (CAA) and the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA) opposed the 2009 measure citing the same administrative issues acknowledged by the Governor.

The CAA and the CNCDA support this new measure. The CNCDA states that it has had an interest in curbing the nefarious practice of parts switching and, therefore, support this bill since it narrowly targets the most egregious example of such conduct.

see previous story here

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