U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch has reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would reduce the 14-year time period that OEMs can enforce design patents on crash parts such as bumpers, fenders and door panels against suppliers of aftermarket parts.
Reintroduced on April 4, the Promoting Automotive Repair, Trade and Sales (PARTS) Act of 2017 would specify that it’s not an act of infringement for an alternative parts supplier to sell an aftermarket collision repair part once 2.5 years have elapsed from the date of the design patent. The previous enforcement period was 14 years.
The bill also would allow alternative parts suppliers to research, develop, make and test collision repair parts on a not-for-sale basis during the new 2.5-year patent period.
“There is no reason why Americans should have to pay unreasonably high prices to repair their cars,” Hatch said in a news release. “Drivers and insurers should be able to shop around for the best deal rather than being locked into a small number of options. The PARTS Act will encourage competition in the marketplace by providing consumers with a greater choice of affordable, quality alternatives to repair their cars.”
The Automotive Body Parts Association applauded the reintroduction of the bill.
“We support the PARTS Act because it is really about protecting consumer choice,” said Edward Salamy, executive director of the association. “The aim of car manufacturers is to monopolize the collision repair parts market and eliminate all competition. This would hurt vehicle owners by saddling them with higher insurance costs, more totaled vehicles and no alternative but to pay high manufacturer prices that are 25 to 50 percent more expensive.”
Ray Pohlman, president of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, pointed to a study by Microeconomic Consulting & Research Associates concluding that consumers will save $1.5 billion a year “by having the ability to purchase high-quality, but less expensive, aftermarket collision parts when their vehicles have been involved in an accident.” The coalition represents automotive aftermarket companies such as NAPA, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Service King.
“The automotive aftermarket wishes to thank the House and Senate sponsors for their leadership in doing what’s right for America’s motoring consumers,” Pohlman added.
The PARTS Act is bicameral, meaning the bill has been introduced in both chambers of Congress.
“Purchasing an automobile is one of the biggest investments a family will make,” said U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Yet according to AAA, one in three American drivers would be unable to cover the costs of an unexpected car repair bill without going into debt. As car insurance rates rise at their fastest rates in more than 13 years, families deserve access to as many options to make these fixes as possible. The PARTS Act increases consumer choice, encourages competition, fosters innovation and will be a big win for consumers by driving down the costs of these often very expensive repairs.”
Sponsors of the PARTS Act note that the bill would not affect the ability of car companies to enforce design patents against other car companies for up to 14 years. It would only affect aftermarket repair parts.