Open Pricing of Vehicle Service Contracts (VSC’s)

About midway into the Session, FADA was advised by another trade association that the VSC companies wanted to amend an insurance bill, and remove all pricing controls on vehicle service contracts at the point of sale. FADA immediately began a dialogue with these companies about the potential impact of open pricing on consumers and dealers  While most states allow open competition the Florida legal culture is different, and FADA asked for time to study this huge policy change and work out any concerns we might have. An agreement was reached, but soon we learned that some individual companies were pursuing the legislative change on their own.  After some quick work by your Executive Committee this issue was resolved, and the Legislature did not remove the existing pricing guidelines as revised last year.

Motor Vehicle Repair Act Remains Intact

As part of the Governor’s task force on regulatory rollbacks, a budget bill carried a provision to repeal Florida’s Motor Vehicle Repair Act, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  The proposal was to repeal all of Chapter 559.  This would negate some paperwork issues for our franchise dealers, but would not have removed the constant threat of lawsuits from consumer advocates.  The repeal would certainly have stimulated the growth of smaller and illegitimate repair shop operators.  Consumers would have been potentially harmed, and the ensuing cut-throat competition from illegitimate operators would have negatively impacted dealer revenues.

Unemployment Compensation Bill Will Help

HB 7005, an unemployment compensation reform bill, supported by the Florida’s business community at large, passed and is on the way to Governor Scott. This bill will not cure the issues of the rising tide of new assessments on employers, but will reduce the number of weeks unemployed workers may receive benefits, from 26 to 23, and will clean up fraud and abuse in the unemployment compensation system.

Thanks to Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) and Rep. Doug Holder (R-Sarasota) for their leadership on this issue.  HB 7005 will help as Florida’s existing system was never designed for sustained, high levels of jobless workers that the state has endured for nearly two years.

Manufacturers Pass Their Tort Reform Bill

SB 142: (Trial lawyers vs. the factories, or, ‘the Crashworthiness Bill’) was passed and awaits action by the Governor. The bill will allow juries to hear all of the facts when there is an auto accident resulting in injuries or death.  Prior law shielded all of the facts from juries in cases where plaintiffs were alleging a manufacturer’s defect was responsible for the injuries sustained in an accident, including if the driver was drunk and texting while driving. Even though dealers are typically indemnified by their factories in products lawsuits, we were happy to see our partners prevail over the lawyers.

FADA Tries an Amendment to Help our Truck Dealers

In the last three days of Session FADA learned that our heavy truck dealers are having problems with DOT and DMV with regards to customer test drives. Under Chapter 320.13, if a prospective customer uses their trailer to test a new cab unit on the road, a violation exists, as this run is considered a for-hire event when the cab has a dealer plate attached.  In discussing this issue, FADA framed a last minute amendment to allow a 24 hour demo drive in Florida only, and under certain conditions. But, there was not enough sand in the hourglass, and our amendment was attached to a failing DOT bill. Another new project will top our agenda in 2012!