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New Tennessee Registration Law Aimed at Deterring Theft, Resale of Catalytic Converters

Law Reduces Headaches for Consumers, Scrap-Metal Professionals and Law Enforcement
Tuesday, June 08, 2021 | 08:28am

NASHVILLE – A new consumer protection law through the Tennessee Department of Commerce & insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Regulatory Boards will put the brakes on the rising theft and resale of catalytic converters across Tennessee.

Catalytic converters are exhaust emission devices used to reduce the toxic gases and pollutants created by vehicles’ internal combustion engines. These innocuous-looking devices contain precious metals that have drawn increased interest from thieves who aim to make a quick buck by stealing them from Tennesseans’ vehicles and then reselling them for ill-gotten profits. A growing problem for consumers and law enforcement officials alike, thefts of converters climbed to 1,203 a month in 2020  compared to 282 a month in 2019, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

To combat the rising numbers of catalytic converter thefts, TDCI’s Scrap Metal  Registration Program announces the following new consumer law that takes effect July 1, 2021:

  • Any person engaged in the business of buying and/or selling scrap metal including unattached catalytic converters as a single item and not as part of a scrapped motor vehicle shall give written notification to the chief of police and sheriff of each city and county in which the activity occurs.
  • Any person purchasing a used, detached catalytic converter must be registered as a scrap metal dealer pursuant to § 62-9-102. Registering with TDCI’s Scrap Metal Registration Program means providing either a state or federally issued photo identification card with an address and a thumbprint, submitting an application, paying the appropriate fee and meeting all requirements under the law.
  • A scrap metal dealer shall not purchase or otherwise acquire a used, detached catalytic converter, or any nonferrous metal part of such converter unless:
    1. The used, detached catalytic converter is purchased at the fixed site of the scrap metal dealer in an in-person transaction; or
    2. The scrap metal dealer must maintain a fixed site; obtains, verifies and all identification and documentation required by § 62-9-103 and § 62- 9-104; and obtains and maintains a copy of the seller's license or a copy of the documentation and vehicle registration.

The entirety of the new catalytic converter anti-theft bill can be found here.

“This new law was created with the input of scrap metal professionals in order to create greater protections for hardworking consumers and business owners,” said 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. This new oversight will reduce the inconvenience and expense for consumers who have to spend hundreds of dollars to repair their vehicle. I thank Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Carter Lawrence and the General Assembly for their leadership in helping protect consumers and prevent illegal activity."

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

Tennessee Scrap Recyclers Association President Ross Litz said: “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. Working with the State of Tennessee and law enforcement, we were able to pass the best catalytic converter law in the country.”

Want more information about TDCI’s Scrap Metal Registration Program? Contact our team via email at scrap.Metals@TN.gov or visit us online.

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