Consumer advocates rally behind auto bill

Posted: Monday, January 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Consumer protection advocates are seeking public support for a proposed law that would require automobile dealers to tell prospective buyers about a car's history and defects.

House Bill 182 also would prohibit unfair advertising practices and set up rules for how auto manufacturers work with dealers.

The legislation would give worthwhile new rights to car buyers, said Steve Conn, executive director of the nonprofit Alaska Public Interest Research Group. The bill would require dealers taking a trade-in to "make diligent inquiry" of the vehicle's history, including wrecks and repairs. They also would have to do a "reasonable inspection" of the car including a test drive. Dealers would have to pass the information in writing to prospective buyers.

The bill also contains protections for dealers, such as forcing manufacturers to give dealers 180 days notice before discontinuing a product line.

"We're the last state in the nation to have automotive dealer franchise protection," said Rick Morrison, owner of Eero Volkswagen of Anchorage and Alaska liaison to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Morrison said he supports many of the bill's proposed consumer protections. But he said the language requiring dealers to collect and disclose a used car's history is too vague.

The protections are badly needed in Alaska, said state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who joined fellow Anchorage Republican and lead sponsor Rep. Lisa Murkowski in crafting the bill.

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