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Rental Car Companies Must Fix Recalled Vehicles Immediately Under Proposed Bill

Posted on August 8, 2011

Senator Charles Schumer has introduced a bill that would prohibit car rental companies from renting vehicles that have been recalled if they haven’t been fixed.  Currently, there is no such requirement.

Two sisters, Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, who died in a Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car are the main support for this bill. Their rental vehicle was not repaired despite a fire hazard recall.  The New York Times article states that “Enterprise eventually admitted in court that their deaths were the company’s fault.”

The proposed bill, which is known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental car Act of 2011, will, according to Senator Schumer, close a dangerous loophole and make it clear to rental car companies that if a rental car has a defect, it must be repaired or not rented.

The news story adds that representatives from rental car companies admitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that recalled rental cars weren’t always fixed right away if the company didn’t think the problem was serious enough to warrant repair.

The rental companies stated that owning to such a large number of recalls, it is difficult to determine which hazards needed immediate attention. The rental car companies want N.H.T.S.A. to use a two-tiered system, assigning recalls to those that are so dangerous, vehicles should not be operated, and those that could be repaired at a later time.

The N.H.T.S.A.’s position, the New York Times reports, is that all recalls are important and by definition involve safety. According to the agency, to insure the public’s safety, all vehicles that are recalled should be repaired promptly. The rental companies have said they are being singled out because safety advocates are not pointing fingers at taxis and shuttle buses.

One of the safety advocates quoted in the story says that no one who rents car would expect it to have an outstanding safety recall, which seems pretty logical. When you step up to rent a car, you assume it is going to be safe to drive.

Federal Trade Commission was petitioned by an advocacy group to force Enterprise to fix each recalled vehicle before they’re allowed to rent it, but the news story states the F.T.C. hasn’t taken any action on this yet.

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