Is This New Law Really Necessary?

A bill moving through the Legislature would make it be a misdemeanor punishable with a $5,000 fine, up to one year in jail or both if an auto repair dealer fails to fully repair or replace a deployed airbag.

It already is a misdemeanor.

Sponsored by the Center for Auto Safety and the Certified Automotive Parts Association, the bill, SB 869, was approved by the 40-member state Senate on a 38 to 1 vote on May 19.

The Senate floor analysis of the measure says that existing law “establishes a misdemeanor penalty of up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both for a person who installs or reinstalls for compensation, distributes, or sells a previously deployed airbag in a vehicle, if the person knows that the airbag has been previously deployed.”

The California New Car Dealers Association, a supporter of the bill, admits that although it’s already fraud to charge a customer for replacement parts and not replace them, it’s difficult to prove after the fact the parts weren’t actually replaced.

The Center for Auto Safety says at least 30,000 repairs are done each year in which deployed airbags aren’t replaced.

A bill sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year, SB 427, would have created the same misdemeanor as the current bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat.

In his veto message, the former governor said this:

“This bill makes minor changes to legal definitions related to automotive crash parts and substantially duplicates existing penalties related to fraudulently installing airbags.

“SB 427 is similar to two bills I have vetoed previously.  The provisions in this measure are largely duplicative of existing law, and provide consumers very little additional benefit.”

During the floor debate, Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a Butte Republican, suggested putting rice inside of airbags because “then you’d have a giant rice cake in the car which is safer.”

Yee was non-committal about the suggestion by LaMalfa, whose district includes much of California’s prime rice growing areas.




  1. Of course it’s “necessary.” Without bills like this – what would our noble men and women in the Legislature do with their time while they are waiting to grapple with the truly important challenges that face California!

    Comment by Rickster — 5.21.2011 @ 7:14 am

  2. What you fail to realize is that the bill requires the airbag put back into its original operating condition. Simply put – it has to work to save lives. So, when the person you love is face plant on the windshield because the passenger air bag in the used car you bought didn’t work – well then I guess you can claim fraud right after the funeral.

    Comment by Bob — 5.22.2011 @ 4:06 am

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