Issues

Issues

U.S. House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on the Oversight of the Federal Trade Commission

On May 8, 2019, the Chairman and four Commissioners from the Federal Trade Commission testified in front the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce in a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the FTC: Strengthening Protections for Americans’ Privacy and Data Security.” The FTC’s mission is to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices, however, as Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) pointed out in his opening statement, the “FTC has fewer employees today than it did in the 1980’s when the Internet did not exist. It has just over 40 employees responsible for protecting the data of 300 million Americans.” Chairman Pallone, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), all echo similar sentiments in their opening statements acknowledging the need to pass comprehensive consumer privacy legislation, and working with the FTC to learn how Congress can assist the FTC with increasing resources and in fulfilling their mission of better protecting consumer data privacy, competition, and innovation.

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

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California Department of Insurance holds Hearing on How Automobile Insurance Groups Affect Driver Premiums

On Tuesday September 17, 2019, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will hold a hearing in Los Angeles to learn how insurers’ use “affinity group” criteria, such as occupation or education level, to set automobile insurance rates. California’s insurance code “permits insurers to issue insurance coverage on a group basis; however, the rates charged for any group insurance are also required to comply with other applicable California laws.” Commissioner Lara has received complaints that drivers with similar driving characteristics are receiving different automobile group rates due to affinity group criteria.

To view the press release from the California Department of Insurance, click here.

To view the Notice for the hearing, click here.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Proposes Research on Driver Interactions with ADAS Technologies

Motor vehicle technology is becoming more sophisticated, and it is common to see vehicles that include advanced driver assistant technologies. These technologies include cruise control, lane keeping assistance, automatic emergency brakes, etc. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes that these technologies “have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and associated economic costs” that can be related with human error while driving. The implementation of these technologies in vehicles is highly dependent on the driver understanding the functions of the systems.

NHTSA has proposed to research drivers’ interactions with certain advanced driver assistance technologies. As part of the research, NHTSA is collecting information from the public to learn about drivers use and interactions with this technology, as well as an on-road driving experiment in which participants, those with and without experience using driver assistance systems, will engage driver assistance technologies.

 

To view the entire notice and instructions on submitting comments, click here.

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NHTSA Drops Proposed Rule on Brake-Throttle Override Systems

This week Reuters reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “will drop rules that were first proposed in 2012 that would have required automakers to install brake-throttle override systems to prevent runaway vehicles.”

NHTSA determined that the rule was no longer necessary as automakers have voluntarily installed these systems in vehicles and don’t anticipate automakers removing this system.

To view the proposed rule, click here.

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Democrats Introduce Legislation for Zero-Emission Vehicles by 2040

Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and U.S. Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2019, that would make all new car sales zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. Senator Merkley and Congressman Levin are the lead sponsors on the bill. The legislation has already garnered support in both the House and Senate.

To view Senator Merkley’s remarks, click here.

To view Congressman Levin’s remarks, click here.

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ASA Discusses Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection Programs & OEM Repair Procedures

During the Automotive Service Association’s Annual Business Meeting & Conference, Bob Redding, ASA Washington, D.C. representative, sat down with Tom Piippo, AMAM, Mechanical Division Director, and Scott Benavidez, AAM, former Collision Division Director, and the current ASA Secretary/Treasurer, to discuss the importance of Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection Programs and OEM repair procedures.

To view the video on Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection Programs, click here.

To view the video on OEM repair procedures, click here.

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U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee holds Hearing on Automobile Loans and Insurance Industries

On May 1, 2019 Chairman Al Green (D-TX), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, convened a hearing entitled, “Examining Discrimination in the Automobile Loan and Insurance Industries.” In a memorandum to the subcommittee, the Financial Services Committee Majority Staff provided background information on the issue, stating, “auto loan debt is the third largest category of household debt, after mortgages and student loans. Nearly all American households own at least one vehicle, and most Americans must borrow money in order to purchase a car. Auto borrowing varies by income, age, and state.” As vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated, it makes sense that their price tag would reflect those technological advancements. A monetary increase of any product has the propensity to impact any American family; research unveiled in the memorandum highlights that non-white borrowers were charged significantly more than white consumers. The memorandum also noted that due to a lack of data collection of discriminatory practices in auto finance, it is difficult to make any significant progress in abetting the issue. Opening statements from Committee Members highlight that it is unacceptable that there is discrimination in this industry.

Witnesses:

  • John W. Van Alst, Attorney, National Consumer Law Center; Director, Working Cars for Working Families, and NCLC project
  • Rachel J. Cross, Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
  • Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Joshua Rivera, Policy Advisor, University of Michigan, Poverty Solutions
  • James Lynch, Chief Actuary, Vice President of Research and Education, Insurance Information Institute

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

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Federal Trade Commission Hosts Workshop on Repair Restrictions

Shops Have Opportunity to Submit Related Comments to FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal agency that aims to protect consumers and “competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” On July 16, 2019 at 9:00 am, the FTC will be hosting a workshop titled “Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions,” specifically examining how manufacturers may limit third-party repairs and if those limitations impact consumer protection.

The FTC has reached out to industry groups and requested that repairers assist their efforts to determine issues relative to manufacturer restrictions on repair shops.

Currently, FTC staff is asking for empirical research and data in response to the following questions:

  • The prevalence of the certain types of repair restrictions
  • The effect of repair restrictions on the repair market in the United States, and the impact that manufacturers’ repair restrictions have on small and local businesses
  • The effect repair restrictions have on prices for repairing goods, accessibility and timeliness of repairs, and the quality of repairs
  • The effect of repair restrictions on consumers’ ability to repair warrantied products or to have the products repaired by independent repair shops
  • The relationship between repair restrictions and the sale of extended warranties by manufacturers
  • Manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions and the factual basis for such justifications
  • The risks posed by repairs made by consumers or independent repair shops
  • The liability faced by manufacturers when consumers or independent repair workers are injured while repairing a product
  • The liability faced by manufacturers when consumers are injured after using or coming into contact with a product that has been repaired improperly by a consumer or independent repair shop
  • Whether consumers understand the existence and the effects of repair restrictions

The deadline to submit information is April 30, 2019. Information on how to submit research and a presentation can be found here.

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18 Days Left to Apply for the 2019 HIRE Vets Medallion Award Program

In 2017 President Trump enacted the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (HIRE Vets Act). The act requires the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary to create a program that “recognizes employers of all sizes for their efforts to recruit, employ, and retain our nation’s veterans.” The program is called the HIRE Vets Medallion Award program, and employers who have met the criteria can apply to receive an award for their efforts of supporting veterans in long-lasting, meaningful careers. The award is based off a number of criteria, including veteran hiring and retention, providing veteran-specific resources, leadership programming, dedicated human resources, and compensation and tuition assistance programs. The award indicates to veterans and communities which organizations are committed to and support veteran careers.

 

To learn more about the program, click here.

 

To apply for the program, click here.

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Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Causes Quarrel in Congress

The Internal Revenue Code Section 30D establishes an electric vehicle (EV) tax credit as an incentive for consumers to buy and own qualified electric vehicles. The claimed credit can be up to $7,500 and is based on the EV’s car battery size. However, these EV tax credits will eventually run out. The federal government is looking at phasing out these tax credits and while there is no set expiration date, that process has already started. Once a manufacturer sells 200,000 qualified EV’s in the United States, the amount a consumer is eligible for receiving decreases. Tesla was the first automaker to hit the 200,000 threshold in July 2018. Due to hitting the mark, consumers that buy Tesla EV’s after December 31, 2019 will not be eligible for a federal EV tax credit.

The debate surrounding this EV tax credit has found itself on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. In the U.S. Senate, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peter (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), introduced S. 1094, the Driving America Forward Act. This bipartisan legislation seeks to raise the 200,000 vehicles’ cap to 400,000 vehicles per manufacturer. The legislation also extends the hydrogen fuel cell credit for ten years. Sponsors of the bill argue that this will be a step forward in cleaner transportation, combatting climate change, and support American job growth. In the U.S. House of Representatives, democrats are urging for increasing the 200,000-vehicle cap as well. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), introduced H.R. 2096, with the purpose of amending “the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax credits for energy storage technologies, and for other purposes.” While this bill addresses numerous clean energy pushes, the bill also encourages revision and continuation of the EV federal tax credit.

Opposition to the bill in both chambers can be seen from Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and, in the House, Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO). These two Members have introduced similar versions of the same bill that seeks to eliminate the EV federal tax credit and impose a federal highway user fee on alternative fuel vehicles. Senator Barrasso believes that with the termination of this tax credit, there will be billions in taxpayers funds saved and will “strengthen the Highway Trust Fund by ensuring that alternative fuel vehicle drivers pay into it.” Similarly, Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) believes that “the EV federal tax credit has benefited the wealthy… [and that it’s] time to end this wasteful subsidy.”

As of now, numerous organizations and automakers support the Driving America Forward Act and believe that this legislation and the continuation of the federal EV tax credit will not only benefit the environment in an effort to reduce the total output of CO2 emissions, but also remain an incentive for consumers to purchase EV’s in the future.

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