Tuesday, 03 March 2009 17:00

Auto “Parts Switching” Legislation Introduced

Bill addressing auto repair fraud claims to deter the unsafe practice of installing previously deployed air bags.

Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod has introduced SB 427 a bill “designed to reduce unfair and illegal practices by some in the auto collision repair industry.”

The measure would modify California’s Automotive Repair Act, which regulates automotive repair dealers and requires an itemized written estimate prior to commencing work, as well as a final invoice listing all work done and parts provided.

“Everyone who owns a car will eventually find themselves in need of auto collision repair services. Wrecks happen to even the safest drivers with well over 1 million accidents occurring in California each year, or about 1 accident every 30 seconds.

Unfortunately, some 40% of these individuals may become the unsuspecting victims of auto body repair fraud,” Senator Negrete McLeod said.

Auto repair fraud is difficult to detect. Auto “parts switching” is particularly hard to uncover and among the most common forms of fraud as some repair shops never actually replace parts they bill you or the insurance company for or switch them out for a cheaper part.

“A particularly disturbing form of “parts switching” involves air bags where the repair shop stuffs foreign materials in the air bag space instead of a new air bag. The consumer never knows until he is in an accident and the air bag does not deploy,” Senator McLeod said.

SB 427 would require an automotive repair dealer who included the replacement of a deployed air bag on a written estimate to repair and fully restore the airbag to original operating condition. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $5000.

Further, SB 427 better educates consumers by requiring a notification to the consumer at the time of estimate and final invoice that “parts switching” is unlawful. It creates a new consumer right to copies of parts invoices that show new parts were installed; and creates deterrents in state law that will ensure better compliance in an industry plagued by some bad actors.

Negrete McLeod added, “While most auto body shops are honest, some bad actors in the industry can cost California consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In the case of a missing air bag, it could cost a life”

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