Safeguarding customer data is the real issue when it comes to tire registration
Mandatory tire registration is one step closer to being a reality. Before recessing for the summer, the U.S. Senate passed a long-term federal highway bill that, among other things, requires tire sellers to register tires at the point of sale.
It is hardly a done deal. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives still have to vote on it; they, too, are on vacation until Congress is back to full strength Sept. 8.
In the interim, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) has vowed to fight it. That puts it at odds with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which wholeheartedly supports putting the responsibility of tire registration on the shoulders of tire dealers.
Who will win? This isn’t a battle of good vs. evil. The RMA believes the percentage of tires being voluntarily registered is too low for safety’s sake. As such, legislation mandating tire registration is the best option.
TIA believes the RMA’s quoted percentage is very misleading because it doesn’t take into account tire dealers who register the tires and contact the affected consumers directly in case of a recall.
And that brings up a question lost in all the rhetoric: Should tire dealers be required not only to register tires, but also turn that information over to tire manufacturers?
Tire dealers have legitimate concerns about turning their customer information over to their suppliers. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s decision to sell tires online only adds to the atmosphere of mistrust. It’s not paranoia if they really are after you.
TIA recently enlisted the help of frequent adversary Sean Kane to promote an automated process for tire recalls rather than mandatory tire registration. Kane, you may remember, is the founder and president of both Safety Research & Strategies Inc. and The Safety Institute.
They even teamed up for a July 21 conference call for the national media. Kane said the information needs to go to the manufacturers.
“We cover independent tire dealers, and they are telling me they are nervous about giving all their customer information to manufacturers,” I said to both Kane and TIA representatives. “They fear the manufacturers will attempt to contact the tire buyers themselves. Is this a concern at all?” Here are their abridged answers.
Kane: “There’s always going to be the interplay of customer data and how it’s used. I don’t think the manufacturers should be left out of the (loop). Knowing one way or another they’ve got a recalled product is important, and whether they have the customer information or it’s a scan that indicates they’ve got a recalled product, we get there in the same way.
“I’ll defer to the TIA and its dealers on how they handle the customer data... we don’t have a dog in that fight.”
Kevin Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training: “Certainly now that the tire manufacturers are selling direct to consumers here in the U.S., there’s going to be some concern on the part of independent dealers. There are also concerns about data security when you consider the number of brands that would be addressed.
“While the current regulations do prohibit the manufacturers from using tire registration data for commercial and marketing purposes, some of them may not abide by the law.
“It’s going to become a question of how many places is this data going to be contained, how secure is it going to be, and how reliable are the manufacturers across the board going to be in abiding by that law?
“We would certainly support an independent third party that would be the keeper of the information and alleviate the real and genuine concerns by retailers about that information being misused, how it could be proved and how it would be investigated. By the time you’ve investigated it, the damage to the dealer has already been done.
“It’s a very competitive marketplace, with a lot of people getting into the tire business right now. So there’s definitely going to be some reluctance on the part of tire dealers to turn over that customer information out of fear their customers are going to be marketed directly, which would change them from sellers to installers.”
Whether or not tire registration becomes mandatory, I like the idea of an independent third party being responsible for collecting and safeguarding the data. ■
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