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Contested bill in Springfield would provide accident reports for resales

November 23, 2010
State legislators this spring are debating a bill that would make available in electronic form any accident reports related to a vehicle offered for sale in Illinois. If the measure becomes law, companies that sell vehicle history reports would add such information to their reports, which would harm the values of used vehicles, including customer trade-ins. The measure, Illinois House Bill 3206, was introduced after lobbying by Carfax, headquartered in Fairfax, Va. After one amendment, the bill on March 12 remained in the House Transportation & Motor Vehicle Committee. Detractors of the bill have cited several faults with the legislation, notably that Carfax would not guarantee the accuracy of any accident information in its history reports. In other words, Carfax would not be liable for an incorrect report, which would deflate the selling price of a used vehicle. Inaccuracies related to accident reports are common. Police officers who complete the reports rarely are expert at determining the extent of damage or the costs to correct the damage. Also, a VIN entered wrongly on the report or transposed later by a typist would assign any damage to a different vehicle. Carfax itself reportedly discards more than 40 percent of the accident reports it reviews in some states because of inaccuracies in the transcripts. A dealer who sells a used vehicle without disclosing prior damage- known or unknown-can face demands of a refund by the purchaser or a lawsuit. Prosecuting attorneys in other states already point to Carfax reports as containing definitive information. Damage reports completed at accident scenes establish a $500 damage threshold and indicate merely whether the harm to a vehicle is above or below that amount. The reports do not indicate whether any damage should affect the resale price of the vehicle. Lobbyists for the CATA will track the legislation. Dealers should be prepared to contact their state representatives if Illinois HB 3206 advances.