The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) is pushing a coalition of consumer groups to support the “Access to Repair Parts Act” – H.R. 3059/S. 1368 – appear to be tied up in the legislative committee process from which they might never emerge for a full and open debate.
The bills (Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced HR 3059 in the House. The Senate version, S. 1368, was introduced by Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.) provide an exception to the U.S. design patent law to provide continued access to “affordable, automotive collision replacement parts.”
The latest clash between the insurance industry and automakers was apparently set off by an International Trade Commission ruling that enforced a car company’s design patents on several crash parts, excluding them from the replacement crash parts marketplace.
Automakers use patent law to prevent the sale what they deem to be inferior parts from independent suppliers, many of them based offshore. The resulting lack of a free market – a monopoly according to critics – costs consumers an estimated $2.8 billion per year in increased repair costs, typically when buying bumpers, fenders, and hoods. (more…)