Monday, 31 May 2004 17:00

DCA director recommends continuation of BAR

California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Director Charlene Zettel has presented her department's report on the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) to the 2004 Sunset Review Committee with three recommendations for improving the BAR. The recommendations include consideration of a statutory definition of "fraud," a term that has been hotly contested in the collision repair industry over the past year. 

The report, presented June 1, is required periodically to determine the effectiveness of the state agency and to determine whether the BAR should continue to exist or be terminated (sunsetted).

Recommendations

The DCA had the following recommendations:

1. Retain the BAR industry ombudsman but change the name to more accurately reflect the position.

The report recommends retaining the BAR industry ombudsman but changing the name to more accurately reflect the position. The title does not accurately reflect the duties of the ombudsman who receives, researches and makes recommendations regarding bureau operational and policy concerns from members of the industry.

2. Appoint an enforcement monitor

To explore the various issues presented to the Joint Committee, an enforcement monitor should be established within the BAR. The enforcement monitor would review and assess BAR's field operations. Additionally, the enforcement monitor would research and analyze the need for, and/or feasibility of, the following proposals:

• A statutory definition of "fraud."

• The establishment in regulation of formalized diagnostic and repair standards.

• The licensing or registration of technicians working within the various fields of automotive repair.

• The establishment in regulation of a formal code of conduct for automotive repair dealers and technicians.

3. Continuation of the Bureau's Adviso-ry Committee

Next step

Later this month, the Joint Committee will vote on the recommendations regarding BAR, along with those made to several other boards also under review.

BAR background

In 1971, after two years of legislative debate in response to consumer and industry concerns about fraud and incompetence in the auto repair business, California enacted the Automotive Repair Act (Act) through passage of SB 51 (Beilenson, Chapter 1578).

The primary purpose of the Act was to protect consumers from unethical and illegal behavior by the automotive repair industry, and achieve consumer confidence in the California auto repair industry.

SB 51 mandated a statewide automotive repair consumer protection program, creating the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR or Bureau) as part of the Department of Consumer Affairs (Department) in 1972. The BAR is administered by a Bureau Chief who is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

The Bureau Chief serves at the pleasure of the Governor and under the direction and supervision of the Department Director. (The last bureau chief, Patrick Dorais, was reassigned to a different job in Sacramento shortly after Governor Arnold Schwartzeneger took office). The Act requires automotive repair dealers (ARDs) to be registered with the BAR, and defines an ARD as a person or entity who, for compensation, engages in the business of repairing or diagnosing malfunctions of motor vehicles.

Except for ARDs who perform specified inspections of vehicular lighting and brake systems required by the Vehicle Code, or those who perform vehicle emission inspections and repairs, there are no prerequisite educational, experience, training, or examination requirements. Automotive repair technicians ("mechanics"), except for those who perform the required vehicle lighting, brake or smog check inspections and certifications, are not required to be registered or licensed by the BAR, nor meet any prerequisite education, experience, training or examination requirements.

Since 1984, the BAR has also had the responsibility of administering the state's program to reduce emissions from motor vehicles, called the Smog Check Program.

There are over 26 million cars and light-duty trucks registered in California. The BAR registers approximately 41,000 ARDs, and licenses approximately 2,300 Lamp and Brakes Stations, 8,600 Smog Check Stations, 15,800 Smog Check Technicians, and 4,700 lamp and brake adjusters.

 

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