MRAA and NMMA disagree over Alaska bill

OAK PARK, Ill. – A bill calling for the legislation of marine dealer-manufacturer agreements was passed out of the Alaska House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13 and, having been re-written by the Alaska House legal service department to address the 10 amendments approved during bill discussion, is poised to move on to the House Rules Committee.

The Marine Retailers Association of America’s director of government relations, Larry Innis, testified before the Alaska House Judiciary Committee in “strong support” of the bill – H.B. 303 – the association said in a “Dealer Alert” distributed last week.
H.B. 303, the MRAA says, addresses concerns expressed by dealers including fair and timely payment of warranty claims, two-year product buy-backs due to manufacturer cancellations, assurances of territorial rights, the long-term security of multi-year contracts, and protection from unwarranted cancellations by manufacturers, such as a failure to re-new for no cause. The MRAA reported that Innis’ testimony included the history and background of dealer/manufacturer agreements and legislation.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, however, “doesn’t think it’s a good bill” and is therefore “vigorously opposed” to it, said David Dickerson, the association’s director of state government relations, in a recent interview.

Dickerson pointed out that a dozen major sections of the bill were deleted by the Judiciary Committee. While he said some might hold that up “as a sign of tremendous movement,” he suggests the reasons for the changes is that “there were so many problems that didn’t come even close to making it pass the mustard by the legislature.”

In fact, Dickerson said the Rules Committee has declared it won’t even consider the bill “without tremendously more changes.”

NMMA believes that part of what has slowed the bill’s progress through Alaska’s legislative system is that it was originally positioned as a consumer bill, yet it’s “hard to make the connection between the needs of consumers and the provisions in this bill,” Dickerson said. “There’s an awful lot about dealer protection and almost nothing in there about consumer protection.” For that reason, three of the bill’s original sponsors have withdrawn their support for it, he suggested.

While Dickerson said NMMA’s concerns with the bill are “broad,” one example of the problems the association has with it is its language regarding dealer reimbursement for parts in inventory should the contract between the parties be nullified. Not only does it demand retail rates for this reimbursement, the manufacturer can’t charge for shipping.

“They’re now making more money on a warrantied part because the consumer price includes the cost of shipping,” said Dickerson. “There are a lot of things [like this in the bill] that are flat unfair.”

“Why would a manufacturer want to do business in that state under this bill as it’s written?” Dickerson concluded. “I feel like the bill is floundering in the legislature for good reasons.”

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