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California Dealers Could Raise Doc Fees Under New Reform Bill

September 08, 2011

A reform bill that would allow California auto dealers to raise document fees by at least $25 was passed last week by the state legislature. The bill now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

After passing the state Senate by a 30-4 vote last Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1215, championed by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), was passed by the state Assembly by a 76-4 vote last Friday.

If the legislation gets Gov. Brown's signature, the documentation fees dealers charge for processing retail and lease agreements will rise from $55 and $45, respectively, to $80.

The legislation is part of a comprehensive reform package that will add more consumer protections and streamline the registration process. It is expected to save the state $9 million a year by reducing administrative costs at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which Blumenfield said will be enough to restore cuts that will cause 70 state parks to close next year.

Among its consumer protections, the bill will require that dealers run VINs on all used cars through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System — a federally mandated database — and post a red sticker tag on any vehicle flagged as a junk-, salvage-, or flood-branded vehicle.

Insurance carriers, repair shops, towing companies and salvage yards also will be required to report totaled vehicles to the national database, which is being overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.

The bill also will require that dealers use electronic vehicle registration for all new- and used-vehicle sales starting next July. It also reduces the time consumers may legally drive without permanent license plates from six months to 90 days.

"This bill unleashes the power of technology to provide first in the nation consumer protections, cut red tape, and help save the state millions," said Blumenfield. "Buying a car, especially a used one, requires some detective work to determine its safety and value. By requiring junk cars and death traps to be flagged with a warning sticker, consumers can see these vehicles for what they really are when shopping for a car."

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