Tennessee introduces consumer protection law for catalytic converters

The law seeks to put the brakes on the rising theft and resale of catalytic converters across the state.

June 9, 2021

Tennessee lawmakers recently passed a new bill that seeks to reduce the number of catalytic converter thefts in the state. When enacted, Senate Bill No. 1612 will help prevent the sale or resale of catalytic converters, lawmakers say.  

According to a news release from the state government, the law takes effect July 1 and prevents the buying and selling of scrap metal, including unattached catalytic converters as a single item and not as part of a scrapped motor vehicle. Any person selling a detached catalytic converter must be a registered dealer. This means he or she must provide either a state or federally issued photo identification card with an address and a thumbprint, apply, pay the appropriate fee and meet all requirements under the law. 

“This new law was created with the input of scrap metal professionals to create greater protections for hardworking consumers and business owners,” says TDCI Assistant Commissioner Alex Martin. “This law will ensure that unattached catalytic converters being sold to dealers originated from salvaged or wrecked vehicles and not stolen from vehicles.” 

The bill also says a metal dealer can’t purchase a detached catalytic converter or any nonferrous metal part of such converter unless the used, detached catalytic converter is bought at the fixed site of the scrap metal dealer in an in-person transaction. A dealer also can’t purchase a catalytic converter unless the dealer maintains a fixed site and maintains a copy of the seller's license or a copy of the documentation and vehicle registration. 

“This new oversight will reduce the inconvenience and expense for consumers who have to spend hundreds of dollars to repair their vehicle,” Martin says. 

Violations of this new law can result in a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, the seller of a detached catalytic converter is liable to repair and replace the converter for the victim. 

Catalytic converter thefts have become a growing problem for consumers and law enforcement officials alike. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thefts of converters climbed to 1,203 per month in 2020 compared with 282 per month in 2019. 

“Due to the critical issue of converter theft rising at such an unprecedented rate over the past year, we knew that stricter laws were needed to protect the citizens of Tennessee,” says Ross Litz, the president of the Tennessee Scrap Recyclers Association. “Working with the state of Tennessee and law enforcement, we were able to pass the best catalytic converter law in the country.”