NU Online News Service, June 29, 10:48 a.m.EDT

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WASHINGTON–Legislation that would clear the way for theuse of auto parts from after-market suppliers for collision repairswas introduced Thursday in the House and Senate.

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The measures would create an exception from design patentinfringement laws for certain aftermarket component parts used torepair another article of manufacture.

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The legislation has strong support in the property and casualtyinsurance industry, with officials of the Property CasualtyInsurers Association of America (PCI) and the American InsuranceAssociation voicing support.

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The exception is "critical" for auto parts suppliers' ability tocompete against auto companies in the repair parts market,according to PCI officials.

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And Melissa Shelk, AIA vice president of federal affairs, saidafter-market parts competition affords consumers a savings of up to$1.5 billion per year.

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"Increasing competition will reduce repair costs to the benefitof consumers' wallets," Ms Shelk said.

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She added that research shows the prices of crash parts sold bycar companies fall by more than 8 percent when a competitivealternative exists, with the alternative part then priced anadditional 26 percent below this reduced car company price.

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The Access to Repair Parts Act was introduced as H.R. 3059 inthe House by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and as S. 1368 in the Senate by Sen.Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

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PCI officials said enactment of the bill would be an "importantstep in eliminating anti-competitive behavior in the auto partsreplacement market and in controlling repair and insurance costsfor consumers."

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According to PCI officials, auto companies have sought for sometime to limit or eliminate competition for replacement parts thatare most frequently used in repairs after accidents, such asfenders and hoods.

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"Despite controlling almost 70 percent of the market for suchparts, they have attempted to use design patent laws to achieve amonopoly," according to Bob Passmore, PCI's director of personallines.

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"PCI has actively supported introduction of this legislation toprevent auto companies from bringing patent infringement claims onrepair parts," he said.

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"As they consider this legislation, we hope lawmakers willcarefully weigh the role that competition plays in the autoreplacement parts market in terms of controlling repair andinsurance costs for consumers," he added.

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"It's no secret that consumers are currently facing difficulteconomic times," Ms. Shelk said. "Let's do what we can to reducerepair costs for America's drivers."

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