Car rental agency

Consumer group pushes for better protection for used car buyers / Public News Service

Consumer advocates are there to keep cars with unrepaired recall defects from ending up with new owners.

Federal law prohibits car dealerships from selling new, unrepaired cars and rental agencies from selling or leasing them. Now consumer activists want the federal government to ban car dealerships from retailing used cars with unrepaired safety recall defects.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act would allow the federal government to fine dealers who sell unrepaired recalled used cars, even if no one has suffered damage or been hurt.

Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a California-based nonprofit, said these cars are ticking time bombs.

“In the case of the Takata airbags, they killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more,” Shahan said. “And as time goes on and vehicles age, they are much more likely to have this problem.”

Shahan singled out CarMax, the nation’s largest used-vehicle retailer, because they sell cars with unrepaired recalled safety defects, once they pass a 125-point safety inspection.

CarMax, in a statement, says it shares “vehicle-specific open recall information in-store and online to ensure our customers are notified of open recalls prior to purchase” and says the current recall repair system compels manufacturers to pay for repairs through their dealers, not through independent retailers who are their competitors.

Years ago, Shahan said, his group filed a complaint against CarMax with the Federal Trade Commission, but the FTC ruled they could continue to advertise the cars as “safe” as long as they disclosed.

“It’s very misleading, especially when they advertise that the vehicles have passed an inspection,” Shahan said. “How could it pass the inspection, when it has unrepaired safety recall defects?”

Shahan encouraged all potential car buyers to check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s website to find out if the car is under recall and, if so, walk away.

The Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act was introduced last year, but did not go to a hearing or vote.

Disclosure: The Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on consumer issues, environmental justice and social justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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