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RMA takes next steps in challenging tire age disclosure bill

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The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is doing everything it can to prevent the passage of California AB 496, a bill that requires consumer notification of a tire's date of manufacture.

When the California State Assembly passed the proposed bill on May 28, the RMA immediately denounced it (see “RMA blasts California tire age disclosure bill,” May 28, 2009). The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee has scheduled a hearing and vote on the measure for July 6.

Here is the RMA’s letter to California senators regarding AB 496.

“The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) opposes AB 496 as passed by the California Assembly on May 28.

“The measure’s findings contain factually inaccurate statements concerning tire performance; encourages unwarranted litigation; imposes significant burdens upon retail tire merchants and creates consumer confusion; and includes expanded exemptions that make the measure grossly inconsistent and arbitrary in its application.”

AB 496 Would Mandate Inaccurate and Misleading Consumer Information

“Under AB 496, the California legislature would be making findings and declarations that are not based on facts and are contrary to the best available information. AB 496 will become a vehicle for lawsuit abuse at the expense of the tire industry while doing nothing to promote motorist safety. Furthermore, the bill would require that tire dealers provide confusing and misleading information to consumers about tire age and performance and could cause some consumers to prematurely purchase new tires.

“Contrary to assertions made in AB 496, the service life of a tire is affected by many factors that are independent of the chronological age of the tire. Tire properties evolve over a combination of time, service and storage conditions. Tires change more rapidly when exposed to excessive heat, under inflation or overloaded conditions. Tires should be removed from service for several reasons, including tread worn down to minimum depth, signs of damage (cuts, cracks, bulges, vibration, etc.) or signs of abuse (under inflation, overloading, etc). It is recommended to have tires, including the spare, inspected regularly. Tire inflation pressure should be checked and properly adjusted at least once a month to maintain safety and fuel economy.

“AB 496 attributes quotes to a 2007 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that either do not exist in the report or are taken out of context to incorrectly suggest that chronological age is a sole cause of tire impairments. The measure also incorrectly states that recommendations by auto and tire manufacturers regarding tire replacement after a period of time are based on scientific data.”

AB 496 Would Mandate Burdensome Requirements on Businesses and Impose Inconsistent Requirements on Some Tire Sales

“The measure’s notification requirements are confusing. The language appears to give tire retailers a choice of providing notification prior to or at the point of sale. RMA had urged any notification requirement be at the point of sale. This apparent choice of notification potentially opens the provisions to interpretation by trial lawyers over when the “better” notification would occur. As a practical matter, dealers would likely have to gravitate toward the prior notification choice.

“Notifications prior to sale are impractical and burdensome. Customers purchasing tires who drop off their vehicle would need to wait to sign a disclosure form that they know the chronological age of the tires. If the tires are not stocked at the retail outlet, the customer would have to wait until the tires arrived and acknowledge the chronological age disclosure before any work could commence. This would be time consuming and unreasonable.”

AB 496 Proponents Concede Chronological Age is Not a Hazard

“AB 496 is inconsistent in its proposed application. The measure exempts private sales of vehicles and tires and exempts auto dealers. Many auto dealers compete with tire dealers for replacement tire sales. In fact, the industry trade publication, Modern Tire Dealer, reported earlier this year that no distribution channel for replacement tires has grown faster in the last eight years than auto dealerships. Clearly, exempting auto dealers from this legislation would result in a significant competitive advantage.

“Worse, this provision implies that tires sold privately, on new cars, used cars or as new replacements by auto dealers are not subject to the same alleged hazards caused by chronological age as tires sold by traditional tire dealers or other retail outlets. By exempting millions of tires from the obligations imposed by AB 496, proponents concede that chronological tire age is not a hazard."

The Tire Industry Commitment to Safety

“Safety is the tire industry’s highest priority in designing and building products that motorists depend upon to carry family and loved ones. Additionally, tire manufacturers that sell product in the United States comply with the strictest government tire safety testing standards in the world. RMA members also vigorously promote proper tire maintenance to assist motorists to optimize safety, fuel efficiency and tire longevity.

“AB 496 is deeply flawed and does nothing to contribute to motorist safety. RMA opposes this measure and strongly urges that Senators reject the bill. If you have any questions regarding RMA’s position, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Sincerely,

Daniel Zielinski

Senior Vice President

Editor’s note: Both Zielinski and RMA Senior Vice President Tracey Norberg are meeting with the senators in Sacramento, Calif., this week.

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