LANSING — State Rep. Patrick Green (D-Warren) introduced House Bill 4172 this week to protect consumers from individuals who install or reinstall counterfeit or nonworking air bags in a vehicle. This bill marks another consumer protection bill offered by Green, complementing House Bill 4049, legislation to require the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to release more rate-setting information so consumers better understand the yearly fee that is included in their auto no-fault insurance policy.
“I introduced the same counterfeit air bag bill during my first week in office last November. I knew this legislation was unlikely to move during the short time we had after the election, but felt it was crucial to protect Michigan’s auto consumers,” said Green. “The use of counterfeit or dysfunctional airbags is truly a matter of life and death, so I believed it was important to reintroduce it this year. Air bags can save a person’s life, but not if they don’t work. Faulty air bags pose a significant threat to my constituents and all Michiganders. It’s time for Michigan to join the 31 other states that have introduced similar legislation to hold individuals accountable for deliberately tampering with this critical piece of safety equipment in our vehicles.”
Green’s bill establishes criminal penalties for anyone who installs or reinstalls a non-operative air bag in a vehicle. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a consumer safety advisory that flagged counterfeit air bags as a problem, specifically citing the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles that have been involved in a crash. In many cases, these air bags closely resemble the original product, including the insignia and branding of major automakers, a task made easier by recent improvements in technology. NHTSA testing revealed “consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.” According to the study conducted by the department, counterfeit air bags are available for more than 100 vehicle makes and models. Consumers may be at risk if they have had air bags in their vehicle replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership. To learn more about this problem or to verify authenticity of replacement parts, consumers can go to www.safercar.gov or contact a NHTSA call center. Green’s MCCA bill, House Bill 4049, would require the MCCA to disclose data used to determine annual actuarial rate setting, including per-vehicle assessments, as well as expected losses and expenses. This year, motorists pay $160 to the MCCA for unlimited medical benefits in the event of a catastrophic injury in an auto accident. Green’s bill would require the MCCA to report on its website how much it expects to spend in claims, the actuarial tables used in determining that amount, and the forecasts, economic data and assessment reports used in establishing the annual fee.
“I hope that increasing transparency in the MCCA will help Michigan’s residents better understand why they pay as much as they do and how their money is being spent,” said Green. “I also believe that this will help me and my colleagues in the Legislature make better decisions regarding our auto no-fault system and its long-term financial stability. I look forward to working together with my colleagues to pass both of these important consumer protection bills.”