California RV dealers have asked their state legislature to include RVs in a dispute resolution process that has governed the relationship between automobile manufacturers and dealers in California for more than 30 years and includes mandatory binding arbitration.
It is believed a hearing on the proposal will occur sometime during April in the California Senate.
Senate Bill 774 would tie RV dealer licenses to California’s New Motor Vehicle Board, which actually was created in 1967. To be licensed, dealers also would be required to have written agreements with their manufacturers.
The retailers of towable RVs and motorhomes would be under the vehicle board’s jurisdiction. Truck campers and park models would be exempt.
“The board was formed to provide a forum for resolution of disputes between auto manufacturers and auto dealers,” said Skip Daum, executive director of the California Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (CalRVDA). “Essentially, we would have the RV industry folded into the New Motor Vehicle Board, just like cars. The board has a superb record of equitable and expeditious dispute resolution.”
The five-member panel also would resolve contractual disputes that manufacturers and dealers might have with consumers.
“It is a simpler way of getting the job done,” said CalRVDA President Joe Range. “This would accomplish a good share of the things that we were trying to accomplish.”
A spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which represents the manufacturers, said it is assessing the legislation and had no comment on its merits.
“My expectation is that (RVIA) will go along with our bill,” Range said. “It meets the needs of RVIA and the manufacturers as well as the dealers. I don’t see any lightening rods of opposition at this point.”
Range said the mandatory nature of the New Motor Vehicle Board’s decisions is different from binding arbitration by an independent third party and better than taking a dispute to court.
“This is arbitration and mediation by a knowledgeable party,” Range said. “The board has been about to whittle the problems down between car dealers and manufacturers to a minuscule few. They set the rules and everybody knows what they have to abide by.”
Daum said the contents of dealer agreements would continue to be negotiated by the parties. “The law does not dictate the terms of the agreements,” he said. “It doesn’t tell anyone what they have to have in terms of a relationship. That is totally a free market. It is up to the parties to negotiate the contracts.”
The aggrieved party in a dispute would be required to file a complaint and pay a $200 fee for the matter to be considered by the board.