Rhode Island Consumer Protection Act

On January 1, 2016, the Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Glass Consumer Protection Act (5-38.5) went into effect. Rhode Island becomes the second state in the union (after Connecticut) to regulate auto glass installation. This law requires that businesses offering auto glass replacement and repair be licensed by the state of Rhode Island.

Unlike the Connecticut law, which licenses technicians, Rhode Island licenses the business. In looking at the two laws I believe that the Connecticut law is a more effective law in consumer safety than the Rhode Island one. However, I feel both are a step in the right direction.

The interesting points of the law in Rhode Island is that the business itself must be “legitimate,” defined as having a physical location that can facilitate a safe installation, or if mobile, having a location where installations can be done in controlled conditions. It also makes reference to following ANSI standards relating to the replacement and repair of auto glass, although they don’t specifically mention the ANSI/AGSC/AGRSS™ Standard and Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard™ that the industry follows.

From reading the Rhode Island law, it seems that they are looking for the auto glass repair/replacement business to be a brick and mortar facility with a typical business plan. They require that subcontracted technicians must be affiliated with a licensed entity as well, thus discouraging non-employees from doing installations. Rhode Island is encouraging the more typical rather than creative business plans which they seem to feel could take advantage of the consumer.

The Connecticut law is very different. It requires the technician to acquire years of apprenticeship, training, study and eventually journeyman status. It holds the technician to a higher standard and level of performance. The beauty to this licensure is that the business only needs to check the license of the technician to be assured that the knowledge is there and management may be all that is needed. However, it may come at a price. A licensed technician will demand a higher wage but should be relatively productive day one. The technician without a license will be less expensive initially but would require training, development and a high degree of management oversight.

I believe that the driving public has a right to a safe vehicle, when it is originally purchased, and after their glass has been replaced. The problem in most states is that that once the vehicle is purchased, there are few guarantees of safety in regards to auto glass replacement. Yes, our industry provides guidelines, standards and training, but, other than the two states mentioned above, there is no requirement in this country for practicing safety auto glass glazing.

There is a very low cost to entry into our industry. Anyone can start an auto glass replacement business with little or no knowledge of procedures, materials or skills in the art. All they need is a vehicle to transport the replacement materials, a tool box with some tools, a company name and a phone. At least in the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut, someone is looking out for the driving consumer. In the 48 other states it is “buyer beware.”

As a business owner, I am not a huge fan of government regulations. However, if a repair facility cannot provide assurances to the vehicle owner that the glass in their vehicle was installed according to vehicle manufacturers’ specifications and industry standards, then that facility should not be allowed to stay in business. That requires some weight of regulation and rule of law.