For years, consumer advocates have been calling for legislation that would make it illegal for rental car companies to rent out or sell vehicles that are currently under a safety recall. That notion is inching closer to becoming a reality with the introduction of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.
The bill, introduced by California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein is named after the two sisters who were killed in 2004 while driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise.
Enterprise had received the recall notice on the vehicles, warning that a fault with the power steering hose could lead to a fire. The sisters’ vehicle did not get serviced and caught fire, causing a head-on crash with a tractor-trailer.
Since that tragic incident, Cally Houck, the girls’ mother, has been an outspoken advocate for closing the loophole that holds car rental companies to different standards than automobile dealerships, which must take any recalled vehicles out of circulation until they are repaired.
Though all four major U.S. rental companies — Hertz, Enterprise, Avis/Budget, and Dollar/Thrifty — claim that they don’t allow recalled vehicles on the road until repairs have been performed, when Senator Boxer asked each of them to pledge to make a written, permanent commitment to such policies, only Hertz agreed in full.
“We cannot allow another family to go through the pain and loss that Cally and her family have gone through,” Senator Boxer said in a statement to Consumerist. “We will not rest until Congress has passed legislation that protects American consumers from these unsafe vehicles, and we urge all the rental car companies to join Hertz in committing to the safety of their customers.”
The Senate bill is the companion legislation to a bill introduced last month by California Congresswoman Lois Capps, New York Congressman Eliot Engel, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
The new House and Senate legislation is supported by Hertz, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the Trauma Foundation.