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October 5, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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California Kills Oil Drain Bill

A California bill that would have promoted longer engine oil drain intervals and placed further regulations on automotive service providers, including fast lubes, was vetoed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to a trade organization that opposed the measure.

The Automotive Oil Change Association said the governor’s veto of California Senate Bill 778 also took out a related proposal, Assembly Bill 873, which had been signed on Sept 30. AB 873 sought to regulate automotive service providers who supply certain “minor services” such as tire-changing, installation of car accessories, fluid changes and other adjustments performed by automotive repair dealers.

SB 778 would have prohibited installers from advising consumers to use oil drain intervals shorter than those listed in their vehicle owner’s manual. The bill also gave consumers the ability to choose the frequency of their oil drain intervals and have this reflected in any future recommendations by the maintenance provider.

AOCA opposed both bills because they sought to expand the California Bureau of Automotive Repair’s oversight of automotive maintenance providers “without due process,” AOCA Policy Adviser Joanna Johnson told Lube Report. They also would have made “minor services” subject to the same heavy regulations as repair dealers.

The California Legislature defines a repair dealer as a person that diagnoses and repairs malfunctions of motor vehicles, while an automotive maintenance provider, or AMP, may provide minor services such as “fluid and filter changes, fluid treatments, and belt and windshield wiper blade replacement.”

“The new requirements contemplated would have been catastrophic for AMPs business model, resulting in significant increases in consumer costs and time spent trying to obtain basic preventive automotive maintenance services,” AOCA said in its statement.

In recent years, BAR “started picking off automotive maintenance providers on an ad-hoc basis, claiming that services long recognized as minor service level maintenance were suddenly ‘repairs’,” Johnson said. “There was no rulemaking, no notice and comment, and no outreach to the regulated community explaining the agency’s one-eighty from prior investigation activities that passed the very same services they were starting to attack.”

AOCA and over 15,000 supporters of automotive maintenance providers protested to SB 778’s author, Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), asking him to carve out an exception that would allow them to continue performing minor services. AOCA supported this amendment, and Sen. Allen also included a clause that SB 778 and AB 873 would only become active if both were signed into law before January 1, 2017.

“Governor Brown may not have realized that the effect of related bill AB 873 (which was signed but died with SB 778) would have been to give BAR the authority they needed to not only support those contested prior enforcement activities but eliminate the minor services exemptions going forward,” Johnson added. “It’s important to remember that neither AB 873 nor BAR’s enforcement posture were driven by consumer demand or evidence of damages.”

The stated purpose of the legislation was to reduce the number and frequency of oil changes, to save consumers money and to reduce environmental impact. But AOCA argued that the bill misunderstood drain interval recommendations, which depend on a variety of factors, such as driving habits, road and weather conditions, fuel octane level and adherence to maintenance obligations.

Johnson does not believe the veto closes the issue. “We’re looking at coalition-building going forward because more legislation and BAR enforcement actions are surely on the way,” she cautioned.

Photo: Nuttanart Khamlaksana / Shutterstock

California Senate Bill 778 proposed that automotive services providers could not advise on oil drain intervals other than those specified in the vehicle owner's manual.