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Issa Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce Car Repair Costs

June 1, 2021

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-50), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet in the House Judiciary Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce the expense of automotive repairs and the cost of car insurance. Representatives Lofgren (CA-19), Cohen (TN-9), Perry (PA-10), Joyce (OH-14), and Jackson Lee (TX-18) joined Congressman Issa as original cosponsors to this legislation.

The Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation (SMART) Act, will expand consumer choice for automobile collision repair parts, decrease costs to both drivers and insurers, and enhance competition in the automobile repair parts market.
“Purchasing an automobile is one of the most significant investments anyone makes. But according to AAA, one-in-three American drivers are unable to cover the costs of an unexpected car repair bill without going into debt,” said Issa. “With the average sticker price of a new car now exceeding $30,000 and repair costs continuing to rise, consumers deserve access to as many auto repair part options as possible. The SMART Act increases consumer choice, encourages competition, fosters innovation and will ultimately drive down the cost of expensive repairs.”

Last month, Congressman Issa visited the Rancho California Auto Collision center in Temecula, CA to meet with employees and industry representatives to discuss his new legislation and learn more about how the SMART Act will transform the repair parts market.
“Millions of Americans depend on their cars to be reliable and affordable so they can get their kids to school, pick up groceries for their family, and drive to work every day,” said Rep. Lofgren. “By bringing real competition and innovation to the auto parts market, we can ensure consumers get the best value for their dollar when they need to shop for safe, high-quality, and reasonably priced replacement parts to keep their cars running.”

Rep. Perry stated, “This vital legislation will save consumers money and lower the cost of driving at a time when inflation is putting this necessary mode of transportation out of reach for American low-income families. I applaud Representative Issa’s leadership on this important issue, and I’m proud to support this bill.”

Rep. Cohen stated, “I’m pleased to join my colleagues in re-introducing the SMART Act, a bill that will expand consumer choice for automotive collision repair parts, cut costs paid by motoring consumers and insurance companies, and increase competition. It’s a smart way to address auto repair costs.”

“I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing the SMART Act,” said Congressman Joyce. “This legislation will help foster a competitive market for exterior auto repairs and bring down costs for consumers. At a time when inflation is at a 13-year high, this bill should be a bipartisan priority.”
The SMART Act is supported by: Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Coalition, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), CARE, Retiresafe, CFA, American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA), Autocare, LKQ, Autozone, and AARP.

Justin Rzepka, Executive Director of the CAR Coalition, said: “The SMART Act will ensure vehicle owners have more - not fewer - choices when they need to repair their cars. By restoring balance to the patent process, the SMART Act will benefit consumers over corporations. The CAR Coalition strongly supports this bipartisan legislation.”

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) added: “For many years, we have been proud to work alongside Congressman Issa as he has led the fight to preserve the competitive market for collision repair parts for automobiles. The SMART Act would help ensure that the costs of automobile ownership do not become prohibitive by allowing consumers to continue to make choices regarding auto repair parts that best fit their needs.  We urge Congress to pass this important bill into law.”

The SMART Act narrowly amends U.S. design patent law to reduce from 14 years to 2.5 years the time car manufacturers can enforce design patents on collision repair parts (fenders, quarter panels, doors, etc.) against alternative parts suppliers. The current patent term prevents aftermarket manufacturers from making or selling external collision repair parts, which drives up repair costs by limiting consumer choice, crowding out competition, and leading to higher insurance rates and fees.

Under the SMART Act, it would not be an act of infringement for an alternative parts supplier to sell an aftermarket collision repair part once 2.5 years have elapsed from the date of patent. The Act would also allow alternative parts suppliers to research, develop, make, and test parts on a not-for-sale basis during the new patent period.

The Act would not alter the 14-year period that car companies can enforce design patents against other car companies. It would impact only aftermarket repair parts.

Darrell Issa is the Representative of California’s 50th Congressional District. The District encompasses the central and northeastern parts of San Diego County and a portion of Riverside County, including the communities of Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center, Ramona, Escondido, Santee, Lakeside, El Cajon, Temecula, and the mountain and desert areas of the San Diego-Imperial County line. Issa served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2011-2015.