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.

Corrective Lenses for IRIS: Reforms to Improve EPA's Integrated Risk Information System
Type: Reports (Oct. 25, 2010)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Wendy Wagner, Matt Shudtz
The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the Public

Reasonable people disagree about the reach of the federal government, but almost everyone believes the government should protect us from such dangers as bacteria-infested food, harmful drugs, toxic pollution, crumbling bridges, and unsafe toys. And yet, the agencies that shoulder these responsibilities are in shambles; if they continue to decline, lives will be lost, money wasted, and natural resources squandered. In their 2010 book, The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the Public: Special Interests, Government, and Threats to Health, Safety, and the Environment, Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro take a hard look at the tangled web of problems that have led to the dire state of the American regulatory structure.

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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Sidney Shapiro
Plausibility Pleading: Barring the Courthouse Door to Deserving Claimants

Plausibility Pleading: Barring the Courthouse Door to Deserving Claimants, CPR White Paper 1005

Type: Reports (May 11, 2010)
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Author(s): Bill Funk, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, James Goodwin
Editorial Memorandum on NHTSA's role in the Toyota Recalls
Editorial Memorandum on NHTSA's role in the Toyota Recalls, by Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro
Type: Editorial Memos (Feb. 22, 2010)
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CPR Member Scholars letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Toyota safety recall

CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro's letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee re the failure of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to address in a timely fashion engineering failures in certain Toyota models

Type: Letters to Agencies (Feb. 9, 2010)
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Author(s): Sidney Shapiro, Rena Steinzor
The Truth About Torts: Regulatory Preemption at the Federal Railroad Administration

The Truth About Torts: Regulatory Preemption at the Federal Railroad Administration, CPR White Paper 910

Type: Reports (Oct. 28, 2009)
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Author(s): Nina Mendelson, Bill Funk, Sidney Shapiro, Thomas McGarity, Jennifer Marshall, James Goodwin
CPR Perspective: Tort Reform: The Role of Litigation in Protecting Against Threats to Health, Safety and the Environment

CPR Perspective: 'Tort Reform: The Role of Litigation in Protecting Against Threats to Health, Safety and the Environment. CPR's Perspectives Series is a set of monographs by CPR Member Scholars on timely and important health, safety, and environmental topics. Each Perspective provides a thumbnail sketch of the competing arguments concerning a substantive or procedural principle for developing appropriate health, safety and environmental policies, and closes with the Member Scholar-author's proposed approach to the issue.

Type: Reports (Sept. 5, 2009)
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Author(s): Douglas Kysar
CPR Perspective: Medical Malpractice: Looking Behind the Tort Reformers' Myths

CPR Perspective: Medical Malpractice: Looking Behind the Tort Reformers' Myths, by Doug Kysar. CPR's Perspectives Series is a set of monographs by CPR Member Scholars on timely and important health, safety, and environmental topics. Each Perspective provides a thumbnail sketch of the competing arguments concerning a substantive or procedural principle for developing appropriate health, safety and environmental policies, and closes with the Member Scholar-author's proposed approach to the issue.

Type: Reports (Sept. 2, 2009)
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Author(s): Douglas Kysar
Thomas McGarity's Testimony on preemption of state tort laws in cases involving medical devices, before the Senate HELP Committee

Thomas McGarity's August 4, 2009, testimony on preemption of state tort laws in cases involving medical devices, before the Senate HELP Committee

Type: Legislative Testimony (Aug. 4, 2009)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity

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