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Repeal of Provision Relating to Motor Vehicle Insurance Cost Reporting

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5859 repeals a provision of law related to the reporting of automobile insurance cost. This provision requires car dealers to make available to prospective buyers information that compares insurance costs for different vehicles based on damage susceptibility.

While I am always wary of any attempts to limit consumer information, clearly, the provision of law that H.R. 5859 would repeal is simply not working as intended.

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, as we call it, produces and sends to auto dealers a booklet containing insurance cost information. Dealers have told us that very few consumers even ask for the booklet. Yet, under Federal law, NHTSA is still required to produce and distribute these booklets, and dealers are still required to make them available.

I am not opposed, Mr. Speaker, to ending the current reporting mandate. However, we should not repeal this mandate without acknowledging that the impetus behind the original provision is sound. The purpose of the provision was to give consumers a basis for comparing damageability risk at the point of sale.

Damageability is about how much damage a car is likely to sustain when a collision occurs, even at very low speed. The law also intended to create an incentive for manufacturers to produce cars which are more resistant to damage and less expensive to repair and service.

Whether you think the current requirement is a nuisance for auto dealers or you think that NHTSA has missed the mark in its implementation of the mandate, I think we should accept that consumers continue to have a legitimate interest in minimizing the costs associated with minor collisions.

Therefore, I would like to thank Congressman Harper for his interest in this; Congressman Owens, on our side of the aisle, from New York, who was one of the original Members of Congress who presented this idea; Chairman Bono Mack and Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Waxman for all working with me to include alongside the repeal a requirement that NHTSA thoroughly examine--that would be the requirement--that NHTSA would thoroughly reexamine the issue of how best to inform prospective buyers about damage susceptibility.

I think we have struck the right balance. We fix a valid problem and keep in place a valuable principle.

Under the bill before us, NHTSA would have 2 years--2 years--to conduct a study, solicit public comment, and issue a report to Congress that will determine the most useful data, format, and method for providing simple and understandable damage susceptibility information to consumers. The agency would evaluate whether insurance costs are the best measure of damage susceptibility or whether there is a better way to make comparisons between vehicles and a better way to make such information available to consumers.

Mr. Speaker, I've said time and time again that information is power, and that is certainly true. For example, the NHTSA program Stars on Cars, which provides crashworthiness information to consumers, gives prospective car buyers information they need about how well a vehicle will protect them and their family in the event of a crash. And car companies now routinely compete to make safer cars that better protect passengers.

If we pass H.R. 5859, complete with a provision to get NHTSA to find a better way for consumers to get important damageability information, the same may be accomplished in this case. And so, therefore, I join my colleagues in asking all of our colleagues to vote for this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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