Consumer Protection

Is our food safe? What about the drugs we take? The cars we drive and the products we buy? Are the banks, credit card companies and lenders dealing fairly with us? In each case, federal agencies are charged with making sure the answer is “yes.” But examples of unsafe products and unfair practices abound in the marketplace.

For years, General Motors hid from regulators evidence that an ignition switch the company used in its Cobalts, Opels, Pontiacs, and Saturns had such a hair trigger that a light brush by the driver’s hand or knee would shut down the engine, disabling air bags and power steering. The resulting loss of control caused at least 13 fatal accidents. GM's ability to avoid detection for so many years says as much about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's weak enforcement record as anything.

Other examples abound. From tainted peanut butter to toxic drywall, to lead-laden imported toys, such instances of unsafe food, drugs, automobiles and products are all too dangerous evidence of a failed system of regulation and enforcement. Often the failure is the result of neglect – a lack of political will to spend the money required to conduct meaningful research and enforcement. Sometimes the cause is ideological: a conviction that safeguards interfere unduly with industry profits. Either way, the result is that industry is spared the costs of being accountable for unsafe production practices, shifting those costs instead to consumers in the form of injuries, illness and worse.

Below, see what CPR Members Scholars and staff have had to say about it in reports, testimony, op-eds and more. Use the search box to narrow the list.

The Seila Law Case: Liberty and Political Firing

David Driesen, writing in The Hill, discusses the implications of the Supreme Court's decision in the Seila Law case, over President Trump's firing of the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for political reasons. Driesen writes, "Astonishingly, Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion associates the president’s ability to use political firing to instill fear in government employees with the preservation of liberty."

Type: Op-Eds (July 1, 2020)
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Author(s): David Driesen
The Trump Administration’s Pandemic Response is Structured to Fail

Writing for the Regulatory Review, CPR Member Scholars Alejandro Camacho and Robert Glicksman describe the structural failings of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Type: Op-Eds (May 19, 2020)
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Author(s): Alejandro Camacho, Robert Glicksman
Letter to Congressional Leaders Opposing Coronavirus Liability Shield

Responding to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to attach to a future stimulus bill a liability shield for companies that fail to protect workers or consumers from the coronavirus, CPR Member Scholars and staff wrote to congressional leaders urging that they not interfere with the ability of workers, consumers, and members of their families to hold businesses accountable when their unreasonably dangerous actions have caused them to contract COVID-19.

Type: Legislative Testimony (May 11, 2020)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

In the Baltimore Sun: President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.

Type: Op-Eds (May 4, 2020)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz, Rachel Micah-Jones
Joint Letter to Congress on Supporting a Resilient Food System in Coronavirus Stimulus Bills

CPR joined more than 50 organizations in a letter urging Congress to ensure that its coronavirus stimulus legislation protects food workers and producers and a safe, resilient food system instead of exploitative industrial livestock production.

Type: Legislative Testimony (April 15, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Parole Hearings Should Be Resumed for Public Health

Writing for AL.com, Heather Elliott calls on the Alabama Director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to resume holding parole hearings amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and to do so electronically, in light of the governor's order waiving face-to-face hearing requirements. She notes that an outbreak of coronavirus in a prison setting could lead to many unnecessary deaths.

Type: Op-Eds (April 13, 2020)
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Author(s): Heather Elliott
Letter to USDA Calling for Aid to Farmers Impacted by COVID-19

CPR joined more than 750 organizations in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the agency to allocate $9.5 billion appropriated for farmers in the CARES Act to local producers rather than corporate agribusiness.

Type: Letters to Agencies (April 9, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Incomprehensibility and the Law

Writing for the Regulatory Review, CPR's Wendy Wagner observes that "Meaningful communication is vital to most legal processes. So when sellers withhold key information from customers, such as high service fees on a cell phone contract, or when companies conceal key information about public health or financial risks from regulators, the law is generally swift to sanction them." So, what happens when sellers disclose information, but do it in a way that's incomprehensible to their customers, as in all those online "terms and conditions" we all click through mindlessly? Wagner has a proposal.

Type: Op-Eds (March 30, 2020)
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Author(s): Wendy Wagner
Joint Letter to OMB on Civil Enforcement of Regulations

Comments from 14 CPR Member Scholars on the Trump administration’s attempt to further hamstring civil enforcement of agency regulations, and calling instead for strengthened enforcement.

Type: Letters to Agencies (March 16, 2020)
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Did a Federal Ethics Loophole Worsen the Vaping Crisis

The lax federal ethics policies on the revolving door between government and industry may have contributed to the vaping crisis, Matt Shudtz and Jeff Hauser write in an op-ed in The Regulatory Review.

Type: Op-Eds (Dec. 23, 2019)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz

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