In 1992, Congress required the federal government to establish and implement the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), a single database that would provide public access to vehicle-history information gathered from states, insurance companies, and junk and salvage yards. Before purchasing a potentially dangerous used car, a consumer using the database would be able to instantly check the validity of the vehicle’s title, verify its mileage, and learn whether it had been stolen or deemed a junk or salvage vehicle. But by 2008, sixteen years since Congress first required the creation of the database, the government still had not done what Congress required it do: It still had not not issued regulations to require reporting of vehicle-history information by junk yards and insurance companies and had not made any vehicle-history information accessible to consumers.
In 2008, Public Citizen — joined by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and Consumer Action — filed suit to compel the Justice Department to implement the database. In September 2008, the federal district court in San Francisco issued an order requiring the government to establish consumer access and issue regulations by January 30, 2009, and required that information from insurers, junk yards, and salvage yards be reported to the system by March 31, 2009.