Does California law prohibit the sale & rental of auto trouble-code readers

A chronic complainer acquaintance (let’s call him Acca) of mine was griping yesterday about the horror of the California legislature, since he claims the guy at the auto-parts store told him it was illegal to loan Acca an auto trouble-code reader.

I call bullshit on this because he’s always making up stuff to complain about, and of course, he’s got no evidence other than what the auto-parts guy (who just might have a conflict of interest) told him, and he’s certainly not going to see if it actually is illegal.

So searching doesn’t tell me much, it just shows people have been complaining about this for a while, but no actual California law is ever cited, some of the search results I found…

Thread from 2010 complaining about this, but no evidence there is such a law

Another thread from 2009 about the same subject, some participants in the thread claim to have bought the readers and that they’re not illegal
Just to cover all my bases, is the purchase or loan of auto trouble-code readers illegal in California? I’d trust the SDMB over the random threads that a Google search turns up.

Definitely not illegal to purchase one. Apple Stores have that Automatic reader that interfaces with your iPhone and tells you quite a bit of useful information (in addition to what is wrong with your car when you start throwing codes).

I couldn’t find any information in a quick search. I’ve definitely heard that before in California, too.

The issue as I understand it is that people have successfully sued in the California courts saying that a parts store reading codes constitutes “advice” and have recovered damages for parts erroneously sold as a result of said advice. It’s not illegal per se, and there’s certainly nothing to stop the parts stores from selling you the code reader itself.

Auto Zone used to offer free diagnostics (as a way to sell the required parts).

Car repair shops (which were charging $80 to plug a box into the funny connector under your dash) objected that this was hurting their business.

Upshot: it is now illegal to scan a car for free (or however it is worded, Auto Zone no longer offers this service).

They now sell readers starting at $70 or so. I bought one from them about 3 years ago.

Tell your friend to google.

I use this one, works like a champ. You can probably find it cheaper if you look around a bit. I think I paid about 15.00 for mine.

it just depends at where you are in the country…

they still offer it for free elsewhere in the country …

Calif. is like a odd ball state, with some of the weirdest regulations/ laws being passed in the nation … in my opinion

Prop 65. From a sticker on a coffee mug offered for sale in CA.

As far as purchase goes, your friend is definitely wrong. I bought one here in the SF Bay Area a few years ago and I just checked online at O’Reilly auto parts and they have a wide variety of code readers in stock at local stores.

Given that, I have a hard time understanding why they’d be illegal to rent like any other tool.

Do you have any evidence that it actually is illegal?

I’m calling BS on the notion that there’s a law against this - I don’t think it exists.

If, as GreasyJack suggests, providing this service for free opens you to a lawsuit, that has much the same effect as if it were made illegal.

A lawsuit from whom? Any work a company or its employees does on a car opens them up to a potential lawsuit from the car owner. CA may have laws that make this easier to do but it would seem to apply to any work/advice they do on a car.

I don’t see how another company could successfully sue them unless there was a law prohibiting giving away services for free. There needs to be some basis for a lawsuit.

GreasyJack mentioned this: reading the code is considered giving “advice”, which can make the store responsible for consequences of actions taken based on that advice.

Note that many lawsuits are not the result of a violation of some law.

There needs to be some basis for a lawsuit if the lawsuit wins. If it’s cheaper to settle out of court than to fight and win, companies will settle out of court.

While I seriously doubt it’s illegal to read a code for free or that a lawsuit would be successful, I can believe that a company quit reading those codes for free so they’d stop having to defend lawsuits.

Yup, I got a free code-read at a New York AutoZone within the last 6 months.

First, it seems like the parts store could protect itself from liability by asking users to sign a release saying they understand the store is not providing repair advice.

Second, If there is any liability, it seems to me that the manufacturer of the code reader is the one who would be potentially liable, rather than the auto parts store that lends it out.

Third, can someone point to an actual lawsuit or out-of-court settlement that might be behind California auto parts stores’ refusal to lend out code readers anymore?

But Autozone does so outside of California, so it’s not a blanket choice. Is there something in California law that makes it possible to sue easier than it is in other jurisdictions? Is there something in CA law about this “advice”?

I haven’t found anything that specifically refers to lending out code readers, but this article appears to reference the change in California law that is behind the new policies.

Not sure why that would make it a bad idea for shops to lend the code readers.

O’Reilly’s website does note that they cannot test the ignition control module in CA or HI due to state laws. That’s not the OBD computer but from their description it sounds sort of similar, perhaps the OP’s friend heard about that and conflated it with the OBD and then on to “It’s illegal to even rent a code reader”?

California has a bunch of specific regulations covering auto repair shops (see here), which are the whole reason why the California courts would care whether Autozone is a repair shop or not. In most states, even if Autozone was found to be a repair shop, it wouldn’t matter because there’s no particular extra rules they have to abide by.

Additionally, California’s consumer protection laws go beyond the federal ones in terms of collecting punitive damages which, along with simply the large concentration of lawyers in the state, make niggling little issues like this a lot more likely to be litigated.

(It is odd that apparently SOMETHING happened around 2008 that caused Autozone and the other big chain parts stores to quit reading codes in CA, but I haven’t been able to find any specific reference to it googling. It may just be that there’s so much automotive forum BS-ing on the topic that the actual information has been pushed to the bottom.)

Here in the United States, this is not a true statement.

I don’t know if it’s the case in this topic, but it’s well within the realm of the believable that a lawyer could have hit Auto Zone with a class-action lawsuit about the code readers and won.