The North Carolina General Assembly has introduced Senate Bill 454 that would require motor vehicle repair shops and auto body shops to be licensed to conduct business in the state. If the bill passes, after Dec. 1, 2015, a shop or estimator would be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor if it is not properly licensed.
The General Assembly’s stated purpose of the bill is “to protect the safety and welfare of the people of North Carolina against unqualified motor vehicle repair shops, collision repair estimators, service advisors, collision repair technicians and mechanical repair technicians or improper motor vehicle or collision repair.”
A North Carolina Board of Examiners consisting of seven members would be created to administer the provisions of the bill if it becomes law. Five of the members would be motor vehicle repair shop owners and/or collision repair shop owners or managers, one would be a chief officer or executive director of an automotive trade association, and one would be a consumer of motor vehicle repair or collision repair services.
In order to become licensed, a shop would have to:
- Submit a properly completed application on a form approved by the board
- Pay a required fee
- Provide a list of all persons who perform motor vehicle repairs in the shop and identify each as an employee
- Be determined to be in compliance with the rules adopted by the board
There would be a list of minimum facility requirements as established by the board for a shop to pass inspection. The license would have to be renewed every two years. Licensed repair facilities would have to display a sign designating them as a “Licensed North Carolina Motor Vehicle Repair Shop,” with the repair shop license number.
Collision repair estimators or service advisors would also have to be licensed.
The bill also has an anti-steering provision that reads, “No insurance company, agent, adjuster or appraiser or any person employed to perform their service shall recommend the use of a particular service or source for the repair of property damage without clearly informing the claimant that the claimant is under no obligation to use the recommended service.” Also, “no insurance company, agent, adjuster or appraiser or any person employed to perform their service shall negotiate or reimburse for repairs with a motor vehicle repair shop that does not hold an active license…”
This is not the first time North Carolina has pursued licensing. A similar bill was introduced in 2009 but ultimately did not pass.
Billy Walkowiak, owner of Collision Safety Consultants in Belmont, N.C., has been a long-time proponent of shop licensing in North Carolina and thinks a law like this is long overdue.
“It’s unfathomable that one must have a license in North Carolina to sell a house and cut hair, but there are no requirements to work on a car where the slightest impropriety or improper repair could put North Carolina consumers’ lives at risk,” said Walkowiak. “This is a giant step to protect consumers against sideline, inferior, untrained and poorly equipped repair shops. I would add that a statutory requirement subsection state that these shops shall comply with any other law, regulation or code which is described in local, state or federal statutes. That would provide motivation for extra effort and severe monetary fines be leveled.”
Bob Smith, a licensed appraiser in Missouri, lobbyist and long-time collision industry consultant, believes the North Carolina Assembly’s effort is a noble one but does not hold high hopes it will become law.
“More power to them, but they are fighting two enemies: those within their own industry and the insurer,” said Smith. “Some of the wording will have to be amended or defined better. The way it’s written now, anyone who repairs a vehicle in any manner would have to be licensed. It would seem to include any professional or amateur racing team and/or hobbyist.”