Have you been charged a fee for engraving a serial number on a catalytic converter?

A new law that went into effect on January 1, 2024, prohibits any automobile dealer or retail seller in California from selling a vehicle equipped with a catalytic converter unless the catalytic converter has been permanently marked with the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle to which it is attached with a label permanently affixed to the catalytic converter listing the VIN.

When this bill was passed, the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Association stated, “The application of a VIN to a catalytic converter is usually done by etching, a process that is both easy and inexpensive.”

However, our continuing investigation reveals that dealerships are not complying with this law or illegally charging consumers for doing so. Some unscrupulous car dealerships charge consumers up to $900 to profit from this new law. They are also not including this charge on the sales or lease contract but in a separate document, potentially violating California’s “one document” rule.

Faced with this exorbitant cost, California car buyers are told they can waive their rights under this law but must do so in writing. So, they can either pay $900 or waive the dealer’s requirement to comply with California law.

Charging consumers for dealers complying with this law is illegal. In the original draft of this bill, an automotive repair dealer or person holding a retail seller’s permit could impose a “reasonable charge” to offset the cost of compliance when permanently marking a catalytic converter. However, the actual bill signed into law removed the ability to charge for this marking when selling a new or used car in the State of California.

If you have purchased a new or used car in California since January 1, 2024, you should ask the dealer if the catalytic converter has been permanently marked with the vehicle’s VIN. Ask them for proof, such as a picture, since it is hard to readily access.

If you were told you had to pay hundreds of dollars for this process or waive your rights under the law, let us know by filling out the form below. You may have a claim against the dealership or manufacturer for whom they operate for violating this law, and that may allow you to rescind the entire transaction or get your money back for paying this illegal charge.

What’s “Secure A Cat” And Is It Required?

Dealers regularly make their money by selling various add on products at the time of the financing negotiations. Apparently attempting to take advantage of the widespread reports of catalytic converter thefts, one of their newest offers is a “warranty” product called “Secure A Cat”, offered by a company called MAG.

Supposedly this is a theft prevention system installed on your catalytic converter. They claim on their form this is not “insurance” (probably for regulatory reasons), though it says it is for $5,000 and covers the cost of the catalytic converter if Secure A Cat fails to prevent the theft of your catalytic converter.

We have received reports of dealerships telling consumers that under recent law this is a required item consumers must purchase. THIS IS FALSE.

If a dealer claims that, ask them to show you the law that requires it, and specifically decline it. In addition, your car insurance likely covers the cost of theft and replacement of a stolen catalytic convertor.

And to top it off, the new law requires etching of catalytic converters at no cost to consumers as a theft deterrent. If a dealership claims you need to purchase this as a way to comply with this law, that’s also not true.

We are investigating whether this is also a potential consumer claim.