Victory Declared In Longstanding Technical Service Bulletin Dispute

The Center for Auto Safety — a consumer advocacy group founded in 1970 by Ralph Nader and Consumers Union — has declared victory in its longstanding legal dispute with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

On Jan. 13, the center’s almost-four-year-long impasse with the DOT came to an end after federal officials posted tens of thousands of technical service bulletins (TSBs) online. The Center for Auto Safety had filed legal action against the DOT over the department’s alleged failure to fulfill statutory obligations to make such communications available on a publicly accessible website.

The TSBs at the heart of the dispute involved the communications that automakers send to service departments regarding vehicle issues, including warranty and policy communications, product improvement notices, and repair instructions. The center argued that the DOT was not consistently posting TSBs online.

“For years, car companies kept consumers in the dark about the existence of vital repairs for defects that often were available for free,” Jason Levine, the center’s executive director, said in a Jan. 21 announcement. “The center fought for decades against secret warranties and other dirty tricks of the auto manufacturers in order to bring technical service bulletins to light. Despite the law being updated in 2012 to require communications from manufacturers to their dealers to be posted online, the government failed to do so, which is why we took DOT to court.

“We dismissed this action because its original purpose — ensuring the communications were made public — appears to have been served,” Levine added. “Rest assured, however, that we will not hesitate to return to court if DOT stops making these important communications available to the public.”