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John Bisnar
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Auto Defect Secrecy Rules

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Consumer Auto Defect Complaints To Be Kept Secret

The American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is urging federal authorities to withdraw a newly proposed set of rules that endangers consumer safety by restricting their rights to learn about the safety of the automobiles they purchase.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s proposed rules exempt the auto industry from revealing important safety information on their vehicles, including the disclosure of consumer complaints. According to several consumer agencies, that is the crucial piece of information that has consistently proven to be the most effective method of keeping dangerous vehicles off the road.

“These unwarranted rule changes by the federal agency charged with ensuring the public’s safety allow the automobile industry to hide information about the safety of their vehicles and ultimately evade responsibility for negligence,” said Jon Haber, CEO of the American Association for Justice

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According to AAJ officials, the proposed rule changes violate both the Freedom of Information Act by decreasing public access to records and fostering administrative secrecy for the benefit of the auto industry. They also say that most of the records that will now be sealed had previously been readily available to the public.

The new rules will basically consider consumer complaints and individual companies’ data as “trade secrets” thus making them out of reach to the public. According to AAJ officials, this information is critical for consumers making important decisions about an expensive purchase – one that could make that all-important difference between life and death in the event of an accident.

Who is NHTSA protecting? The auto industry over consumers? What good does it do to keep consumer complaints about defect automobiles secret? Who benefits from such secrecy?

As an attorney who has been rigorously advancing the rights of those victimized by defective automobiles and products, I understand the importance of using “consumer complaints” in litigation involving auto makers. What I can not understand is why a governmental agency, NHTSA, would be making such a rule. Who is behind this cover-up, protection of the auto industry? Something is not right here.. Restricting such key data only serves the interest of auto manufacturers. It certainly does nothing to encourage the auto makers to improve the quality and safety features of their vehicles.

These new rules will be a disservice to the 200 million motorists on our roads and do not signify the federal agency’s commitment to upholding safety standards and industry accountability.

I have a real attitude about auto makers who are not committed to making their products safe for the consumers who demonstrate their trust by buying those products. I’m even more concerned and angered by these proposed rules that will basically blindfold consumers by not giving them the information they need to make one of the largest purchases and most important purchases in their lives!

How do you feel about this new rule?