ANNAPOLIS, Md., April 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- On the final day of the legislative session, the General Assembly approved landmark legislation (HB 525) that will give Maryland one of the nation's strongest and most consumer-friendly car safety disclosure laws. The law breaks new ground by forbidding carmakers from punishing dealers for sharing any communication from manufacturers that impacts "motor vehicle safety, durability, reliability, or performance" with anyone who purchases or services a car at the dealership.
The bill now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for approval. Consumer Auto urges the governor to sign this important legislation as soon as possible. It is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1.
The bill mandates that car manufacturers "may not prohibit a dealer from, or take any adverse against a dealer for" sharing safety and defect information from with their customers.
"MD's new law will overturn the 'gag rule' carmakers impose on dealers and help MD drivers learn about safety problems manufacturers haven't bothered to tell the public about," Consumer Auto Executive Director Franz Schneiderman said. "It's a real plus for safety and transparency for all Maryland drivers."
Car manufacturers regularly share information with dealers about car safety and other defects in technical service bulletins and other communications. But many manufacturers use franchise rules to forbid dealers from sharing that information with customers unless they ask about the issue or in other narrow circumstances. Those rules often deprive drivers of information about serious, and sometimes deadly, defects until or unless the problem prompts a recall.
Several states have laws that allow dealers to share such communications with consumers who request it. Maryland's law goes further by allowing dealers to share them anyone who purchases or services a car at the dealership.
Laura Christian, whose daughter Amber Marie Rose died in 2005 in Charles County, MD as a result of an ignition switch failure in her new Chevy Cobalt – a problem GM knew about but hadn't disclosed to customers or safety regulators – worked hard for the legislation to honor her daughter's legacy and protect other drivers. She sees the law as a real breakthrough, and a model for other states.
"My daughter died from a defect GM knew about, and more than 170 other sons and daughters died before GM finally recalled the cars and fully informed the public about the problem," Ms. Christian comments. "This law gives dealers the ability to save lives by sharing that information with the public."
"I believe the law can be a model that will inspire other states to act to get consumers better information about their vehicles, and I'm eager to work to bring it to other states," she notes.
Critical support from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and from leading consumer advocates including the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and Public Citizen helped prompt the Senate to amend the bill to strengthen its safety disclosure language.
"Support from Attorney General Brian Frosh and leading consumer advocates, along with leadership from Sen. Susan Lee, Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo and other key legislators, was crucial in helping us pass a law that will make a real difference for Maryland drivers," Schneiderman notes. "We're very grateful for their work."
Consumer Auto is a coalition of advocates, consumers and people in the auto industry working for consumer safety and greater fairness and transparency in car sales. You can learn more at www.consumerauto.org.
SOURCE Consumer Auto