Consumer protection added to car dealer bill

Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Car dealers would have to give buyers some information about a used car's history under a bill that passed the House on Monday.

That consumer protection provision was added to a measure protecting car dealers in their relationships with manufacturers.

A similar consumer protection provision had been removed from the bill in the House Finance Committee, but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Lisa Murkowski, sponsored an amendment to reinsert it on the House floor.

''This would be a considerable protection to the consumer,'' said Murkowski, R-Anchorage.

It would require a dealer to ask an individual selling a car about its accident and repair history, then pass on that information to a potential buyer. If the vehicle was obtained from another dealer, a wholesaler or an auction, that also would be disclosed to the buyer.

Murkowski did not try to add another consumer protection element that the Finance Committee had stripped -- a requirement that dealers inspect used cars if they believed them to have material defects.

Dealers argued that requirements was too vague and they feared it could amount to a warranty that would hold them liable for problems they didn't know about.

House Bill 182 also contains provisions to protect new car buyers, including prohibitions against advertising that a car is being sold at a reduced price when the original price was never a realistic one.

People selling fewer than 10 vehicles a year would be exempt from the bill's requirements.

Other elements in the measure protect dealers, including barring a manufacturer from locating a new franchise near an existing one.

Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, argued against the bill, saying he was particularly concerned about its protections for dealers.

''I really think this ought to be a free-market process,'' Kohring said.

Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, said the measure is not so much about providing protection as about providing balance in the relationship, so manufacturers aren't ''strong-arming'' dealers.

Dealers, manufacturers and the attorney general were involved in eight months of negotiations on the bill, Halcro said.

''Nobody is particularly in love with this bill, and that means it's a good balance,'' Halcro said.

The House approved the measure 35-2, with Kohring and Rep. Bev Masek, R-Willow, voting no.

Rep. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, gave notice she may bring the measure up for reconsideration on Tuesday.

If the outcome does not change, the bill will go to the Senate.

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