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Consumer Advocates Fighting Bill That Discloses Recalled Cars At Used Dealerships

(CBS SF) -- A bill meant to protect you from driving off the used car lot in a recalled car is one step closer to becoming law, but consumer groups are not happy.

The first version of CA AB 287 passed the Assembly Transportation Committee, but it will likely face several revisions before its next vote.

Consumer advocates have spent years trying to force used car dealers to fix recalled cars before selling them, but bills with that requirement have repeatedly failed to pass.

Now, the car dealers have come up with a bill of their own. Instead of requiring dealers fix the recall, the California New Car Dealers Association is sponsoring a bill that would require dealers to tell you about the recall and where you can get it fixed yourself.

"What this bill does, is give them information they didn't have beforehand," Monica Baumann of the California New Car Dealers Association said.

The bill would require dealers to fix the recalls in some cases. One example is if a consumer is buying a recalled car from a same line dealer -- like a Ford from a Ford lot.

They also have to fix recalls that fall into the "do not drive" category, but consumer advocates point out that represents less than 6 percent of all recalls. Many dangerous recalls – like the Honda exploding airbags – did no fall into that category.

"These are issues that affect human life and safety," said Calley Houck, a vocal opponent of the bill.

Houck knows firsthand about the dangers of recalled cars that don't fall into that do not drive category. Both of her daughters were killed in a crash directly related to an open recall in their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Like dealers, the bill allows a rental car company to rent you a recalled vehicle as long as they tell you about it.

Unlike car buyers, renters don't have the option of getting the car fixed and are often faced with limited options when arriving at a rental counter.

Houck testified against the bill, urging lawmakers to require rental car agencies repair recalls. She noted that her young daughters would not have understood the severity of the recall that ultimately killed them. She does not think requiring renters to sign a disclosure is enough to keep drivers safe.

Consumer advocates like Rosemary Shahan of the Center for Auto Reliability and Safety stress dealers should be required to fix the recalls.

"This bill is going to allow dealers to sell cars with lethal safety defects to consumers and get away with it," Shahan said.

The industry argues that something is better than nothing. Currently, dealers don't even have to tell you about the recall.

Baumann says she thinks advocates have simply decided they'd rather have a bill that's perfect in their eyes, than a bill that good and is comprehensive.

The bill does require dealers give buyers a loaner vehicle while getting their recall fixed. However, opponents point out that there is no guarantee that a loaner won't be a recalled car, too.

The bill also requires as a private seller to research and disclose any open recalls before selling a car. Opponents point out that there is no money in the bill allocated to an awareness campaign, so it's unlikely private sellers will understand their responsibility.

Ultimately, dealers argue it should not be their responsibility to fix the recalls. They point out that they could be forced to hold on to a recalled car for months before they could get the parts necessary to fix a recall.

Consumer advocates say, instead, this bill forces consumers to drive around in unsafe cars for the same amount of time.

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