Court Upholds Auto Recalls by Region

By | June 26, 2006

A federal appeals court has unanimously upheld guidelines from the government’s highway safety agency allowing automakers to limit some vehicle recalls by region.

Two consumer groups had challenged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s policy that allows automakers to conduct recalls involving defects related to regional conditions such as snow or heat.

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety asserted that a 1998 letter sent by NHTSA to automakers offering guidelines on the regional recalls should be considered a rule change requiring public comment.

The consumer groups said it amounted to a “de facto regulation” and violated a federal law requiring that all vehicle owners be notified of a recall regardless of where they live or where the vehicle is registered.

The appeals court disagreed. Judge Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote the “guidelines are nothing more than general policy statements with no legal force.”

“They do not determine any rights or obligations, nor do they have any legal consequences,” Edwards wrote.

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