LEGISLATION TO RECEIVE HEARING FOR FIRST TIME
A Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduces Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 That Would Close A Dangerous Loophole That Allows Rental Car Companies To Rent Or Sell Recalled Vehicles That Are Unlawful for Car Dealers to Sell
Legislation is Named for California Girls Killed When Recalled Rental Car Caught Fire and Has Support of Rental Car Industry – Bill to Receive Hearing in Commerce Subcommittee For the First Time
Senators: Keeping Defective and Potentially Dangerous Cars Off the Road Is a Matter of Life and Death
Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation that would ban car rental companies from allowing consumers to rent or sell vehicles that are under manufacturer recall. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 is supported by all the major car rental companies – Hertz, Enterprise, Avis Budget, Dollar Thrifty, and National – as well as the American Car Rental Association – together representing virtually 100 percent of the rental car market.
While current law prohibits car dealerships from selling recalled vehicles to consumers, no law bans rental car companies from doing the same or renting them to unsuspecting consumers. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 would keep unsafe rental cars that have been recalled off the road. Later this month, Senator Claire McCaskill, the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Consumer Protection Subcommittee, intends to hold a hearing on the bill.
“Rental car companies are rolling the dice with passengers’ lives each and every time they rent a car that’s under a recall,” said Senator Schumer. “This practice has already proved tragic. Most rental companies have now changed their policies, but we need a law to ensure that recalled cars are never again driven off of rental lots. This bipartisan bill is a common sense safety measure, and I’m very grateful that Senator McCaskill has agreed to hold a hearing on it.”
“This legislation honors the memory of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck – two beautiful girls who lost their lives in a senseless tragedy – by ensuring that no other family will have to fear that the rental car they are driving is unsafe,” said Senator Boxer. “Because of the tireless work of their mother, Cally, we are able to introduce this bipartisan bill today that will make sure that vehicles rented or sold by rental car companies are safe and sound.”
“Our goals for this legislation are twofold—to protect families, and to prevent undue burdens for employers—and this agreement succeeds on both fronts,” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, which will hold a hearing on the legislation later this month. “Neither side got everything they wanted, but by everybody giving a little, we’re getting a lot—and that’s what compromise is all about.”
“No other family should have to endure such horrific losses just because a rental car company didn’t bother to ensure that their cars are not being recalled due to safety defects,” said Cally Houck, the mother of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck.
Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety added, “We’re optimistic that Congress will act to stop all rental car companies from playing ‘rental car roulette’ with their customers’ lives.”
In 2004, sisters Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were killed driving a rental car that had been recalled for a power steering hose defect but had not been repaired. The car caught fire because of the defect while traveling on the highway, causing a loss of steering and a head-on collision with a semi-trailer truck. The young women died in the crash. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 is needed to ensure this tragedy is not repeated.
Getting unsafe vehicles off the road is integral to improving safety and saving lives. This is why current law requires manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet federal safety standards. Current law also prohibits auto dealers from selling a new car under recall unless the defect has been remedied. The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 would, for the first time, hold rental companies to the same standard as auto dealers. Specifically, the bill:
· Prohibits Rental or Sale of Vehicles Subject to a Safety Recall. Under the senators’ plan, vehicles may not be rented or sold until the vehicles are fixed, consistent with existing law for new car dealers, who have been prohibited from selling or leasing recalled vehicles for decades. Rental companies would be permitted to sell a damaged vehicle subject to recall for parts or scrap with a junk title.
· Requires Rental Companies to Ground Vehicles Under a Safety Recall. The bill would ensure that vehicles under a safety recall will be grounded as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours after the rental company gets the safety recall notice. Rental companies will have up to 48 hours for recalls that include more than 5,000 vehicles in their fleet.
· Permits Rental Companies to Rely on Temporary Measures Identified by Manufacturers. If a manufacturer’s recall notice specifies steps that can be taken to eliminate the safety risk until parts are available, a rental company may continue to rent the vehicle if those measures are put in place but must ground and repair the vehicle once parts become available.
· Ensures NHTSA Has Tools Necessary to Protect Consumers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will have authority to investigate and police rental companies’ recall safety practices.
The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 is supported by Carol (Cally) Houck – mother of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and Trauma Foundation.
The bill has been endorsed by all the major car rental companies – Hertz, Enterprise, Avis Budget, Dollar Thrifty, and National – as well as the American Car Rental Association. The bill also is supported by the Truck Renting and Leasing Association, representing the vast majority of truck renting and leasing operations in the United States, as well as AAA and State Farm.
“Although most of the car rental industry already prohibits renting or selling recalled cars if they haven’t been repaired, lawmakers can further reassure car rental customers across the board by supporting and voting in favor of this important federal legislation. As a result, we will continue advocating on behalf of this bill and working diligently with consumer advocates, the American Car Rental Association and other key stakeholders to help get it passed.”
The American Car Rental Association
“The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) is pleased to join with consumer advocates in support of this legislation, which prohibits the rental of any vehicle that has an unrepaired safety recall and addresses certain practical implementation issues of our industry. It is critically important that Congress codify what most of the car rental industry voluntarily enacted last year. By formally creating a uniform standard, both car-rental and car-sharing customers will have even greater confidence going forward no matter where they rent their vehicles.”
“Hertz supports efforts to prohibit car rental companies from renting or selling recalled cars if they haven’t been repaired. The major companies do an excellent job handling recalls, and consumers should have confidence that the cars they drive are safe; this legislation will help improve the public’s perception of our industry’s commitment to safety.”