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California Bill Addresses Repair Fraud

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The California Senate is considering a bill (S.B. 427) that would deter “parts switching,” or quoting one part on an estimate but instead installing a cheaper or faulty part during the repair.

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The bill would require repairers who include the replacement of a deployed air bag on a written estimate to repair and fully restore the airbag to original operating condition, and failure to do so would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $5,000.

Further, S.B. 427 would require a notification to the consumer at the time of estimate and final invoice that parts switching is unlawful. It also creates a new consumer right to obtain copies of parts invoices that show new parts were installed.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, is meant to enhance California’s Automotive Repair Act, which regulates automotive repair dealers and requires an itemized written estimate prior to commencing work, as well as a final invoice listing all work done and parts provided.

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Negrete McLeod estimates that 40 percent of the more than 1 million Californians involved in accidents each year could be victims of repair fraud and that parts switching costs California consumers millions of dollars each year.

“A particularly disturbing form of ‘parts-switching’ involves air bags, where the repair shop stuffs foreign materials in the airbag space instead of a new airbag,” she said. “The consumer never knows until he is in an accident and the air bag does not deploy.”

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