California's non-OEM parts bill brews up some controversy

Jan. 1, 2020
Although views differ on whether the bill is pro- or anti-shop, the outcome will surely affect the aftermarket.

A renewed battle over non-OEM parts is brewing in California’s legislature as a proposed bill to establish a state-operated licensing system for aftermarket parts certification has been introduced.

Assembly Bill 1852 is supported by the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA), which deems the measure to be a pro-consumer, pro-shop bill. Other entities, such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP), oppose the bill, claiming that, in fact, it’s anti-consumer and anti-shop.

Along with establishing the certification system, AB 1852 would require repairers to report defective parts to regulators on a daily basis. A similar proposal previously introduced — AB 1163 — was effectively quashed after its first committee hearing, and some industry leaders would like to see AB 1852 meet a similar fate.

“The legislation repeals important consumer parts notice requirements in California and increases the paperwork burdens for collision repair facilities,” contends Bob Redding, governmental affairs representative for ASA. The organization encourages shops to contact Assembly persons and members of the Senate in opposition to this legislation.

The measure is being co-sponsored by California Assembly members Ed Chavez, Bill Maze and Leland Yee. The text of the proposal states, in part: “The collision repair parts marketplace lacks competition.” More than 80 percent of the marketplace is dominated by car company manufacturers.

Jack Gillis, CAPA’s executive director, believes the bill will help protect consumers from both overpriced parts and poor quality. “The bill strengthens existing California law by requiring that insurance company estimates or body shop invoices clearly state, ‘This estimate has been prepared based on the use of aftermarket collision repair parts,’” argues Gillis.

Existing law requires notice if insurers mandate the use of non-car company parts, he adds. “We have always supported full disclosure — not the discriminatory or selective disclosure as has been promoted by others. Discriminatory disclosures are like half-truths because people are suspect of the facts left out.” He adds that full disclosure of all parts used in a collision repair provides the greatest consumer protection — knowledge.

Lack of empowerment

Gillis believes AB 1852 will create an environment of choice, which will aid consumers in their purchasing decisions and protect them from costly repairs when their vehicle has been in an accident. Repair shops, too, will benefit from the bill, he claims. “Instead of having access to only high-priced parts that total-out cars and send them to the junkyard, more fairly priced quality parts will mean more chances to repair cars,” says Gillis.

Meanwhile, ASA’s Redding rejects Gillis’ contentions. “ASA has supported consumer notice and consent for replacement crash parts use since the mid-1990s. The draft legislation ASA encouraged since that time has been used as a model for legislation in numerous states. This language has been made available to repairers, policymakers, consumers and the media for a number of years,” says Redding. “The ASA legislation is very clear in its support for consumer notice and consent for the use of all replacement crash parts, including OEM, aftermarket, recycled, remanufactured, etc.

“What’s unfortunate is that the CAPA [-drafted] legislation does not encourage or empower an educated consumer with the right to accept or reject the types and quality of parts used in the repair. In addition, the legislation places a tremendous bureaucratic burden on the independent collision repairer with the reporting criteria.”

According to Redding, “All of these certification bills certainly have a chance to move (toward passage).”

He directs Golden State shop owners and distributors to ASA’s legislative Internet site, Links will direct the user to the relevant contact information in Sacramento, Calif.

Redding points out that AB 1852 alters California’s existing law “protecting the consumer’s right to know” by allowing more widespread use of aftermarket parts — which may have problems meeting the fit, form and function standards needed for an effective repair.

“Although the proposed legislation establishes a generic parts notification in the written estimate, the process as-drafted could be more confusing to the consumer and less helpful,” he says. “As have other aftermarket crash parts bills introduced in recent years, the bill establishes a parts certification program. Licensed certifiers will determine ‘standards of like kind and quality.’”

Fighting artificial demand

Repair facilities and service centers would be required to report “on a daily basis” any automaker collision repair part or certified collision repair part “that does not function as intended and is exchanged or returned to the manufacturer or distributor,” Redding explains. “This report to the director of consumer affairs will, at a minimum, include the transaction date; the name of the manufacturer; the serial, certification or unique identifying number for the part; the make, year and model of the vehicle; and a description of the defect.”

Last year, when we spoke to Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director of the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality, she explained that an aftermarket crash part is “any motor vehicle replacement part used to repair collision damage other than new parts manufactured by the OEM or bearing the trademark of the OEM.” That would include any hard parts, non-mechanical parts or rebuilt parts used in the repair as well.

ASA believes this bill will dilute established consumer protections in California and place additional bureaucratic burdens on repair facilities.

The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP) concurs with ASA’s assessment and questions CAPA’s promotion of a bill that attempts to artificially create demand for certified parts, rather than responding to the true needs of the market.

“The consumer is already challenged when trying to clearly understand the parts procedures and language within today’s collision repair estimate,” argues AASP President Pat Andersen, who says the removal of clear and itemized disclosure of which type of part(s) will be used will make it more difficult for the consumer to truly comprehend his/her repair.

AASP Past President Nick Kostakis contends repairers are already burdened with having to return or rework defective parts, and that it’s “unreasonable” to expect them to be the record keepers, when other segments within the aftermarket supply channel (manufacturers, distributors, insurers and certifiers) have historically failed to accurately track and police these parts.

“CAPA decertifies many aftermarket parts each month. Despite repeated claims of the effectiveness of current certification processes, an accurate and effective tracking system for these parts — and an enforced mechanism for removing defective parts from vehicles and decertified parts from inventories — does not yet exist.”

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