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Blumenthal, Markey & Warren Introduce Bill to Protect Car Buyers from Unsafe Used Cars

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act would close a safety loophole that allows car dealers to sell used cars with defective brakes, loss of steering, exploding Takata airbags, and other known safety defects

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act today to ensure used vehicles with open safety recalls are repaired before they are sold, leased, or loaned to consumers. The bill requires car dealers to repair any outstanding safety recalls in used cars prior to selling, leasing, or loaning them to consumers. Current federal law does not prohibit car dealers from selling cars with outstanding recalls despite the significant risks posed to the safety of everyone on the road. The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act addresses this glaring gap in consumer protection that confuses buyers who believe they are purchasing a vehicle with safety assurances, and threatens public safety.

“This bill will ensure that car dealers repair dangerous and defective used cars before they drive on our roads,” said Blumenthal. “Americans deserve peace of mind that they are buying safe cars from car dealers, yet too many used cars today are sold or leased with known and unrepaired safety issues. This measure will close this unacceptable safety loophole, and protect drivers and the public from hazardous cars.”

“All cars – whether they are brand new or used – need to be safe before they leave the lot,” said Markey. “I am pleased to work with Senator Blumenthal on this important legislation that will make sure unrepaired cars subject to an outstanding recall are not on our roads. Closing this loophole is a critical step toward improving safety for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians."

More than 40 million used vehicles are bought in the United States each year, a rate more than double new car sales. People with lower incomes, communities of color, and people living in disadvantaged communities frequently become victims of unscrupulous sales practices when they purchase a used car from car dealers. In recent years, safety recall defects have included catching fire, defective brakes, loss of steering, and exploding Takata airbags. Under current law, auto dealers are able to sell used cars with these and other open recalls to unsuspecting consumers.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act would close this safety loophole, and prevent the sale of used vehicles with safety defects by prohibiting auto dealers from selling, leasing, or loaning vehicles with unrepaired open recalls to consumers. To ensure that open recalls are repaired, the bill would enable auto dealers to sell recalled vehicles to other auto dealers who have the ability to fix the defects at wholesale prices. The legislation would also establish a new reimbursement program to hold auto manufacturers accountable if they fail to provide auto dealers with the parts to repair safety defects within 60 days.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act is supported by a number of auto safety and consumer groups, including Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, MASSPIRG, U.S.PIRG, Safety Research and Strategies, The Trauma Foundation, Public Citizen, and Americans for Financial Reform.

"Consumers who shop for used cars at licensed auto dealerships shouldn't have to worry that the dealer is deliberately selling them a hazardous car without bothering to get free repairs done to fix deadly safety recall defects," said Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

“Vehicles are only recalled for two reasons – a safety defect or a violation of a federal safety regulation. The practice of selling these dangerous vehicles without first fixing obvious and identified safety hazards unacceptably shifts the burden from manufacturers and used car sellers onto the party least equipped to address the danger – the consumer. Senator Blumenthal’s Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act incentivizes manufacturers to get recall repairs completed quickly and protects everyone on the road by closing the federal loophole permitting the sale of unrepaired recalled used cars,” said Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety.

"As the recent buyer of a used car, the safety of this market has been top of mind for me,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Most consumers might understandably assume that car dealers are prohibited by federal law from selling cars that are under recall. This is true for new cars but not for used cars, unless they are being sold by a rental car company. This inequity is absolutely unacceptable and should compel Congress to swiftly take action on the Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act. This commonsense bill requires auto dealers to repair dangerous safety recall defects in all used cars they sell, lease, or loan before they reach consumers. Families that rely upon the affordability of used cars should not have to wonder if the vehicles they purchase from a car dealer contain ‘ticking timebombs’ in the form of airbags that may explode, engines that may catch on fire, or other dangerous safety defects. We commend Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for their leadership and commitment to equity and safety.”

“Three out of four car buyers, buy used vehicles. Thanks to Senators Blumenthal, Markey, and Warren, these consumers, who may not be able to afford to buy new, will be protected from vehicles with dangerous recalls. No product should be sold with a known defect, especially an automobile, and Senator Blumenthal’s Used Car Safety Recall Act will save lives,” said Jack Gillis, Consumer Federation of America Executive Director and CEO.

The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here.