Matt Gaetz’ car dispute legislation gets in gear

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A House panel Thursday approved a bill that backers say would help head off legal fights between car dealers and customers about problems with vehicles.

The Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 11-1 to approve HB 55, which would require consumers to give written notice to dealers at least 30 days before filing lawsuits. Customers would not be able to pursue cases if dealers agree to pay the amounts sought in what are known as “demand letters” and pay surcharges up to $500.

Sponsor Matt Gaetz said the bill, which is backed by the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, is aimed at resolving disputes before they wind up in court. Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat who voted against the bill, said she was concerned about how low-income people would be able to navigate the process and whether it would give an unfair advantage to dealers. But Rep. Jose Oliva said he thinks the bill could help low-income people, as it would give them a way to make demands to dealership owners and get vehicle problems resolved. “I don’t think this limits access,” Oliva said. “I think it actually grants it.”

Gaetz sponsored a similar measure in 2012, but it did not pass. This year’s bill is also slated to go to two additional House panels.

Via The News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.