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Calif. BHPH Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk; Two Others Inch Closer

August 30, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three bills aimed at regulating buy-here, pay-here dealers are moving closer to the finish line, with one of two Assembly bills headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. The other two bills, including a second Assembly bill and a Senate bill, are headed back to their house of origin for one final vote.

Assembly Bill 1447, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Torrance), awaits the Governor’s signature after gaining approval from both houses. As described in a press release, the legislation aims to protect buyers from harassment and invasions of privacy. It must be signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Brown by Sept. 30.

“Without the protections included in AB 1447, mostly low-income buy-here, pay-here customers can’t be sure they are buying dependable vehicles,” Feuer said in a press release. “This bill requires a minimum warranty to help ensure buyers are paying for reliable transportation and other critical safeguards for consumers. I urge the governor to sign this critical measure.”

Feuer’s bill prohibits BHPH dealers from requiring customers to make car payments in person. It also mandates that BHPH operations offer a minimum warranty of at least 30 days or 1,000 miles. The bill also requires that BHPH dealers disclose to car buyers when ignition shutdown technology is present in a vehicle. They must also receive written consent from buyers prior to purchase when an electronic tracking device is installed in the vehicle.

AB 1534, authored by Assembly member Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), passed through the state Senate by a 23-10 vote. It will be reviewed again by the Assembly on Friday for a concurrence vote. The measure mandates that dealers place a window sticker on each used car showing the vehicles’ suggested market value. If the Assembly approves amendments added by the Senate, AB 1534 will head to Brown’s desk.

The lone Senate Bill, SB 956, was approved by the Assembly by a 52-26 vote. Championed by Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), the bill awaits a final vote from the Senate, which must approve amendments made by the Assembly. If passed, California BHPH dealerships would operate under one of the lowest interest rate caps in the nation — set at a maximum of 17.25 percent.

Each of the bills were introduced in January after a series of articles critical of BHPH dealers was published in the Los Angeles Times late last year.

Tom Hudson, of Hudson Cook LLP, claims that Lieu’s legislation will drive a number of BHPH dealers out of business, noting that BHPH dealers were already regulated under the same state laws and regulations that govern all car dealers — citing Automobile Sales Finance Act, California’s Uniform Commercial Code the state’s unfair and deceptive acts and practices law, the federal Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z.

“California doesn’t need more laws; it needs to enforce the ones it has,” he wrote in an e-mail.

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