Baldacci signs protection bills


AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci has signed a privacy-protection bill applying to information in event data recorders, known as black boxes, which are installed in many newer cars.

The law, which will take effect later this year, says information in black boxes is the property of the vehicle’s owner and may not be downloaded or accessed by anyone else. The bill allows some exceptions, such as a court order to produce the data.

Black boxes are used to record information during accidents like speed and the response of seat belts, brakes and air bags. However, that information can also be used as a basis to raise insurance rates or deny claims.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says Maine’s new law is similar to one passed in California two years ago which also prohibits downloads of black box data without the owner’s permission or a court order.

Both states’ laws also require manufacturers of new motor vehicles that have event data recorders to disclose the presence of the devices in the owner’s manual.

The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers says black boxes are installed in about 15 percent of the cars on the road and 90 percent of 2004 models.

Weakened bill targeting holds’ enacted, sent to governor

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – A bill that calls for more public disclosure about holds that are placed on debit or credit card purchases won final approval Friday in the Maine Senate and was sent to Gov. John Baldacci for his signature.

The consumer protection bill was weakened from its original version, which would have prohibited merchants from placing holds for amounts larger than the actual purchase.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Walter Ash, said many consumers have bounced checks and been charged fees for insufficient funds because of the holds.

As amended, the Belfast Democrat’s bill calls for notices by businesses of the amount of debit card holds and requires the state business regulation department to develop a consumer awareness brochure that explains debit card holds. The brochures would be available free at banks and stores.

In addition, the state attorney general must report on the number of consumer complaints it receives about debit card holds.

Ash said he’s not completely satisfied with the amended bill, but is glad the issue has gotten out to consumers.

“I’m going to keep a close eye on it and if it’s a problem in the future, we’ll be back,” Ash said Friday.

AP-ES-04-07-06 1259EDT