The Houston city council has voted to delay the Automotive Repair Shop Licensing Ordinance for two weeks. The council remains divided on several items within the licensing ordinance, and the majority feels that more time should be granted to have input from additional small business owners. The delay will allow more time for further deliberation and communication with members of the Houston city council over potential changes in the proposed ordinance language.
The Automotive Service Association’s (ASA) Houston chapter sent a letter to Annise D. Parker, Houston city mayor, and all members of the city council, recommending changes to Section 8 of the current proposed Automotive Repair Shop Licensing Ordinance. While the ordinance has improved dramatically since ASA began working with the city, ASA believes further changes are necessary for the association to be supportive. ASA’s proposed changes will benefit consumers and the automotive service industry.
There are several mandates in the proposed ordinance that would place unnecessary burdens on Houston repair shops, consumers and the Houston police department (HPD). In the letter to the mayor and city council, ASA proposed solutions for several issues that have been raised regarding the Nov. 29 ordinance draft, including the following:
- The waiver for verbal approval should be eliminated to address concerns that the written authorization places an unnecessary burden on a repair shop, the HPD and the consumer.
- All repairs should be authorized with a signature to provide protection for the consumer and the small business owner.
- All automotive repair facility (ARF) licenses operating on the date the ordinance is authorized shall have six months to comply with the requirements of section 8-22 (a).
In addition, in the letter to the mayor and the city council, ASA raised a number of concerns that have yet to be addressed in the current draft ordinance. These include:
- The definition of a “collision repair facility” should be changed to better represent collision repair.
- Reduce the collision requirement to hold parts for seven days to three days. It is not feasible for collision repair shops to store collision-damaged parts for up to seven days.
- ASA questions whether the city can impose a limit on administrative fees.
- The ordinance should not list specific names of software programs because it limits the potential for new and improved estimating guides in the future.
- Mandate that a vehicle release form be presented to the vehicle owner or authorized agent listing the collision repair shop’s costs for tear-down fees, administrative fees, etc. It will create transparency for the customer and insurance company.
- Change the term “body shop” to “collision repair facility” throughout the proposed regulation. The language in the proposal should be consistent.
- There is a discrepancy between the two different definitions of a collision repair facility that creates the possibility for discrimination.
- ASA recommends authorization forms for consent and nonconsent tows to alleviate problems in the towing industry.
- Automotive repair facility license fees should be reduced in light of the fact that many others, such as waste disposal fees and sign fees, have increased as well.
ASA also suggested that the city’s staff continue to dialogue with our ASA Houston leadership to ensure the final regulation is the best possible for consumers and repairers. The association highlighted the opportunity that the proposal presents to address training concerns for the industry that impact the consumer, and stated that Houston chapter leaders would like to work with city council staff to ensure that licensed repair facilities adhere to appropriate training requirements for technicians.
The ordinance will be voted on by the city council Dec. 21, 2011. ASA opposes the current draft ordinance and encourages the city council to make additional improvements.
To view the letter sent to the mayor and Houston city council members, visit ASA’s legislative website at www.TakingTheHill.com.