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Letter to the Editor
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Friday February 14

California Bureau of Automotive Repair Suspends Use of Notices of Violation

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) has recently suspended the use of the Notice of Violation (NOV) and the public disclosure of consumer complaints that result in the issuance of an NOV.

The DCA/BAR is currently reviewing BAR's use of this procedure, as well as the format and text used throughout the Department to provide information to the public.

According to the bureau, BAR's use of NOVs has always been intended as a courtesy notice to licensees as a proactive enforcement effort to inform and to seek voluntary compliance with the relevant statutes and regulations. NOVs have typically been issued when less serious violations are confirmed in the course of investigating consumer complaints or performing licensed station inspections.

There has never been a penalty attached to the issuance of an NOV. They have always been issued by BAR as a way of alerting the licensee of a need to take corrective action. NOVs have been issued when BAR investigators determined that a formal disciplinary action is not warranted and have been disclosed to the public pursuant to BAR regulations (Title 16, California Code of Regulations, Section 3303.1(b)(1)).

In response to recent inquiries regarding BAR's use of NOVs (Editor's note: Caliber Collision Files Suit Against BAR for example) coupled with the unintended use of NOV information by certain law firms to secure settlements in a rash of Business & Professions Code 17200 filings, BAR suspended the disclosure of consumer complaints with NOVs on its website on December 5, 2002. BAR also suspended the issuance of NOVs on January 15, 2003.

Although BAR is not issuing NOVs, it will continue to advise licensees of less serious violations that are noted in the course of investigating consumer complaints and performing station inspections. A BAR statement indicates that: "BAR will continue to conduct office conferences with licensees when a pattern of these less serious violations develops. The office conference is used to alert the licensee of a developing pattern and to avoid the need for more formal disciplinary action. These are the same progressive enforcement policies that BAR has used in the past to address lower grade violations. The only thing that has been suspended is the actual issuance of the NOV and the public disclosure of consumer complaints with NOVs."

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