Repair Parts Act protects consumers’ right to choose alternatives
The United States House of Representatives
Judiciary Committee heard from consumer advocates and industry
experts on why the “Access to Repair Parts Act” (H.R. 3059/S.1368)
– legislation that would create a narrow exception in the United
States design patent law for purposes of repair – is the solution
to guaranteeing motorists’ access to affordable alternative replacement
parts and curbing car companies’ attempts to monopolize the marketplace.
The Quality Parts Coalition (QPC), which represents consumers,
seniors, insurers, parts manufacturers and distributors and repairers,
urged Congress to swiftly enact the Access to Repair Parts Act.
Americans are likely unaware of the looming threat that could
send the costs of car repair and insurance premiums soaring –
a car company parts monopoly. Every year, fender-benders around
the country leave motorists in need of crash parts such as bumpers,
fenders and hoods.
For more than 60 years, Americans have been able to use cost-effective
alternative parts to repair their vehicles instead of costly
car company parts. Alternatives, while high in quality, are as
much as 26 to 50 percent less than car company equivalents. This
translates into an estimated $1.5 billion in savings for the
millions of motorists on America’s roads. But in recent years,
the car companies have secured an increasing number of so-called
design patents on crash parts for cars (bumpers, fenders, hoods).
When enforced, the patents give car companies total control of
the market. Insurers warn that this loss of competition will
drive up the cost of insurance premiums by as much as $3 billion.
Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation
of America and author of The Car Book, in testimony on behalf
of CFA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto
Safety and Public Citizen, warned legislators of the consumer
cost of a car company parts monopoly: “The lack of competition
for repair parts will result in high repair costs and more vehicles
being ‘totaled’ because the price of repairing the damage exceeds
the value of the vehicle. High repair costs will lead to higher
insurance premiums. Furthermore, when faced with expensive repairs
and a limited budget, consumers may simply not be able to replace
their head light or a broken side mirror, items essential for
The Access to Repair Parts Act provides a narrow exception to
the design patent law, paving the way for consumers to continue
to have access to affordable alternative replacement parts for
Identical legislation is pending in the United States Senate
(S. 1368), sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Rep.
Lofgren is joined by cosponsors Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Steve
Cohen (D-TN), William D. Delahunt (D-MA), Sheila Jackson-Lee
(D-TX), Charles A. Wilson (D-OH), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and
Debbie Halvorson (D-IL).