Center for Auto Safety Withdraws USDOT Suit

Source: Center for Auto Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On January 13, after an almost four-year legal battle, the Center for Auto Safety dismissed its action against the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), brought because of a failure by DOT to fulfill its statutory obligation to make manufacturer communications available on a publicly accessible website. 

The Center dismissed the case after the government posted tens of thousands of manufacturer communications online.

The Center, founded in 1970, is an independent, non-profit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. We are dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy for everyone on the road. In large part, improving vehicle safety demands enabling consumers access to as much information as possible about the vehicles they own.

The communications involved, alternately described by car companies and regulators as “manufacturer communications,” or “technical service bulletins,” are the main method auto companies use to send information to service departments on vehicle issues large and small. They can include warranty and policy communications and product improvement notices, and usually include repair instructions for the mechanic.

Historically, these communications were hard for the public to acquire.  As a result of the Center’s advocacy over the past few decades on behalf of the American consumer these bulletins are now more readily available to the public. But, before the lawsuit, DOT was not consistently posting them online

“For years car companies kept consumers in the dark about the existence of vital repairs for defects that often were available for free,” said Jason Levine, the Center’s executive director. “The Center fought for decades against secret warranties and other dirty tricks of the auto manufacturers in order to bring Technical Service Bulletins to light. Despite the law being updated in 2012 to require communications from manufacturers to their dealers to be posted online, the government failed to do so -which is why we took DOT to court.”

The Center’s lawsuit, filed in 2016, alleged that the DOT had failed to publish manufacturer communications and accompanying indices as required by law.  After we filed suit, DOT announced its intent to publicly post the communications and indices. The parties subsequently agreed to a series of stays while DOT upgraded its system for receiving and posting the communications and worked through its backlog.  Since we filed suit, DOT has made over 50,000 communications available online.

The entire announcement can be read by clicking on this sentence.

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