ILMA Alert: California Law Bans “Obsolete Oils”

ILMA_Alert_BannerILMA has had inquiries about a new California law that bans “obsolete oils” from retail sale to the public in the state, effective January 1, 2016. The Association wants to share information about the new California law and its recent discussions with State weights and measures officials on the statute.

On October 8, 2015. California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed AB 808 into law. The enacted legislation largely updates existing state weights and measures laws for lubricants and motor fuels. There are three key elements of AB 808 of interest to ILMA members:

1. An engine oil is prohibited from being sold or distributed for use in an internal combustion engine in California unless the product conforms to a minimum of one active American Petroleum Institute (API) classification (based on the latest revision of SAE J183 “Engine Oil Performance and Engine Service Classification”), a minimum of one active sequence of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) “European Oil Sequences specification,” or a minimum of one active OEM specification. (Section 13482 of the Business and Professions Code.)

2. Restates that misrepresenting the brand, grade, quality or price of a lubricant is misleading, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices subject to enforcement. (Section 13413 of the Business and Professions Code.)

3. Directs the weights and measures program in the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to establish the method of sale of lubricants sold at retail to the public by adopting, by reference, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Handbook 130-2015, except as specifically modified, amended, or rejected by the weights and measures program. (Section 13404.5 of the Business and Professions Code.)

CDFA is the only California agency with the authority to regulate the weights and measures, advertising, labeling, quality of automotive lubricants in the state. As an initial matter, CDFA officials told ILMA that the agency is initiating the process to develop a rulemaking implementing AB 808. There likely will be one or more stakeholder meetings on the rulemaking, and the Association expects to participate.

The following are questions ILMA asked the CDFA officials and the answers it received:

Q: Because regulations have not been written, and because the ban on obsolete oils took effect on January 1, 2016, how does CDFA interpret “active API classification”?

A: “Active” means current API classification. At this time, the following are current API service classifications – SN, SM, SL and SJ.

Q: Oil marketers have had little notice of the new statute. Is there a “window” or sell-through period for existing inventories of engine oils now prohibited in California?

A: The prohibition took effect on January 1, 2016. While CDFA can enforce against this deadline, the agency does not expect to “be in the field” until April 1, 2016. CDFA stated that an oil marketer assumes the risk for any obsolete oil sold in California after January 1, 2016.

Q: Can an obsolete oil be exported from California?

Yes. Oils being exported from the U.S. through Californian ports are not in commerce in the state, so the prohibition does not apply.

If your company’s automotive lubricants are sold in California — or have the potential to reach the state — then you should familiarize yourself with the update sections of the Business and Professions Code.