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Mar 09, 2004 - 05:35 PM

Car Consumers Lose A Champion

by Carmen Balber
In his speeches, Arnold extolls the Golden Age of California. However, his actions as governor - including a freeze on all pending government regulations, a rehash of every rule passed in the last five years, the dismissal of pro-consumer regulators, and the appointment of former corporate lobbyists and executives to top posts in his administration - are more likely to create the Golden Age of Corporateering.

California consumer protection relies on two pillars: government regulation and the deterrent threat of legal action. Governor Schwarzenegger has repeatedly signaled his displeasure with regulation, and now he has fired of one of the state's strongest regulators, the head of the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Auto repair shop reps are anxious to replace him with an industry shill.

Arnold and his political supporters are going to work on legal protections as well. The auto industry, which has contributed over $800,000 to his campaigns, is pushing to gut consumers' legal rights under the Unfair Business Competition Law. Car dealers have contributed $4.5 million to promote a November ballot initiative that would take away the right of consumer, civil rights and environmental groups to sue to prevent unfair business practices, such as auto repair fraud. If auto dealers have their way, such consumer protection lawsuits could not be brought in the future.

Schwarzenegger's dismissal of the Bureau of Automotive Repair's consumer champion, combined with the car dealers' attack on consumers' ability to go to court, threatens to leave automotive consumers with less rights and less recourse than we've had for generations.

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