Should retailers bear all the responsibility for registering products they sell or should that onus be on the purchaser?
And what responsibility do manufacturers have in ensuring that registration information is made available to the end-use purchasers of their products?
These are key questions in the debate over whether the federal government's current legislative policy of voluntary tire registration needs to be overhauled and made mandatory for tire retailers as it was prior to 1982.
Proponents of this move focus mainly on one issuethat the current voluntary system is not working. They cite registration percentages as low as single digits for tires sold by independent dealers, although there is no independent verification of this. Some dealers probably do not provide customers with registration cards while others do.
In reality nobody knows for sure how many tires are being registered.
But the issue is more complicated than this and has potentially serious consequences for tire retailers should the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents tire makers, and other proponents of mandatory registration, prevail.
For tire dealers, the primary concern is that returning to a mandatory system would transfer the expenses and liability exposure for registering tires to them, according to the Tire Industry Association (TIA), which opposes mandatory registration.
Furthermore, if mandatory registration became law, retailers could face fines of $1,000 or more for every tire they sell that is not registered, according to TIA. This would be grossly unfair.
Requiring dealers to register customers' tires also is atypical of common practice. In researching this issue, TIA said it could find no case in the U.S. in which retailers can be fined for not registering a product they sold.
And what role should tire makers/importers have in tire registration? The current system requires them to provide registration forms to retailers, who then must make them available to all customersa process that's inconsistent, at best.
If dealers think this push for mandatory registration is likely to blow over, they should think again.
The GROW AMERICA Acta transportation funding bill making its way through Congressis loaded with hundreds of amendments, including one calling for mandatory tire registration.
The issue here is not that the current system is faulty, it's that the entire industry has done a poor job following the letter of the law.
To improve registration numbers, all parties must come together to collectively educate, promote and ensure that tire registration takes place. It would be wrong to put this on the backs of dealers.