Legislation Would Ground Recalled Rental Cars

By Matt Schmitz  on May 13, 2013

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators last week introduced a bill that would prohibit rental-car companies from renting or selling vehicles with an open manufacturer's recall. The legislation, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013, is named for a pair of California girls killed when an unrepaired rental car under recall caught fire due to the defect and caused a head-on collision with a semitrailer.

Existing law prohibits car dealerships from selling recalled vehicles to consumers, but no law bans rental companies from renting them. The bill, first announced in September 2012, is co-sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). McCaskill, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee's Consumer Protection subcommittee, said she will hold a hearing on the bill later this month.

"Rental car companies are rolling the dice with passengers' lives each day and every time they rent a car that's under a recall. This practice has already proved tragic," Schumer said in a statement. "We need a law to ensure that recalled cars are never again driven off rental lots."

Most rental companies have already voluntarily changed their policies about renting or selling recalled vehicles, Schumer noted. According to a news release from Schumer's office, the bill is supported by all the major rental companies — Hertz, Enterprise, Avis Budget, Dollar Thrifty and National — as well as the American Car Rental Association.

"It is critically important that Congress codify what most of the car rental industry voluntarily enacted last year," the American Car Rental Association said in a statement. "By formally creating a uniform standard, both car-rental and car-sharing customers will have even greater confidence going forward no matter where they rent their vehicles."

Specific provisions of the bill include:

  • Rental or sale of vehicles subject to a safety recall is prohibited until the vehicles are fixed, consistent with existing law for new-car dealers.
  • Vehicles under a safety recall must be grounded no more than 24 hours after the company receives the recall notice, or 48 hours for recalls that involve more than 5,000 vehicles in their fleet.
  • If temporary safety measures are identified by manufacturers in the recall, a rental company may continue to rent the vehicle after taking those measures, but must ground the vehicle once replacement parts are available.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will have the authority to investigate and police rental companies' recall safety practices.

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