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|October 2018 Government Affairs Update|
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR OCTOBER 2018
· How fuel system induction service became official “preventative maintenance” in California and what it means for the rest of the country
· Federal Trade Commission tells OEMs to untie branded products and services from warranty coverage
· Right to Repair rides again to tackle telematics
Fuel System Induction Service recognized as “preventative maintenance”
Although experts know that fuel system cleaning is a critical preventative maintenance service especially for the increasingly common GDI engine, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) for years challenged its application by fast lube operators. One argument claimed the service wasn’t useful; i.e., a “wallet flush.” Another claimed it was too technical to be considered preventative maintenance. Without ever undertaking a rule making or issuing a clarification on the subject, BAR enforcement agents took it upon themselves to arbitrarily decide when the service could be done, going so far as to prohibit the service for certain fast lube operators while giving others—like dealerships—a pass.
The situation looked grim until AOCA Policy Advisor Joanna Johnson realized the state Auto Repair Act contained a regulatory exemption for spark plug cleaning—a key aspect of fuel system service—and the tables could be turned against BAR’s anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior. To prove the point, she sought assistance from Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (ITW)’s Joe Farr, Kevin Washington, and Laura Blalock, who initiated an immediate study of the effects of induction-based fuel system cleaner on spark plugs in newer GDI engines. Sure enough, ITW proved their process cleans spark plugs (among other benefits), which BAR—and later legislators—could not deny as both valid in method and necessary in results for consumers. ITW’s Kevin Washington further supported the association by flying out to Sacramento twice from D.C. to provide invaluable technical expertise and a healthy dose of forthright discussion at meetings with the agency, state legislators, Ms. Johnson, AOCA Executive Director Kristy Babb, AOCA Deputy Director Dave Murillo, AOCA GAC Bicoastal Subcommittee co-chair Matt Webb (Premier Oil), and his attorney Griffith Tonkin (Arthofer & Tonkin). Petter Parelius, Director of IT for Oilstop, also played a critical role by providing testimony at BAR’s legislative Sunset Review hearing.
As a result of this intense team effort, BAR, former repair industry opponents, and the California Assembly agreed to create a new, comprehensive legislative definition of “preventative maintenance” that would include by name fuel system induction service. Like the other preventative maintenance services defined in AB 3141, fuel system induction service (and pour-ins) will be exempt from formal estimate procedures to best preserve customers’ access to a cost-effective, streamlined automotive maintenance experience. AB 3141 was signed by Governor Brown in September and goes into effect January 1, 2019.
Despite being one of the longest standing types of automotive maintenance, in recent years some automakers continue to cast doubt on fuel system cleaning by prohibiting it or referring to it in TSBs only as a type of “repair.” North Carolina’s Consumer Council’s webpage on the subject is not unusual. However, given that California is the fifth largest economy in the world, their endorsement of fuel system induction service as legitimate preventative maintenance marks the beginning of re-establishing the importance of the service nationwide. It will be up to the industry to continue collecting valuable data and promote it.
Federal Trade Commission says “Untie the NOT [covered under warranty]”
If you’re feeling like a broken record with your customers, let the Federal Trade Commission do the talking for you. They’re getting better at it:
“Untie the NOT. Take a fresh look at your own warranties. Unless you meet one of Mag-Moss’ narrow exceptions, do not condition warranty coverage on consumers’ use of parts or service from you or someone you authorize.” https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2018/04/ftc-staff-sends-warranty-warnings
Here's another helpful FTC website link for customers.
Right to Repair: Telematics poses new threat to aftermarket access
Telematics is a form of wireless technology that is quickly becoming an integral part of the "connected" vehicle—expected to be the new normal by 2020. Although this technology is intended to make the driving experience safer and more convenient via monitoring and data collection, it is also yet another way to cut out aftermarket service providers. This can happen because vehicle owners don’t currently own the data produced by their vehicles, nor do they have the ability to control how or where it is sent. Remote diagnosis of vehicle problems sounds great to consumers until they find out only automakers can take advantage of the information. It’s so bad that automakers have even refused to give post-crash vehicle owners access to their own event data recorder information. If legislation isn’t passed to stop it from happening, automakers will surely exploit their exclusive access to direct all repair and maintenance to their franchised dealers and designated third parties.
Massachusetts legislation HD 5153, an Act to enhance, update and protect the 2013 Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Law and Consumer Rights, was introduced on September 18, 2018. It will be introduced again at the opening of the next session in January 2019. AOCA supports this effort and encourages members to get involved in their states to pass similar measures.