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 Truth about Torts: Regulatory Preemption at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The Truth about Torts: Regulatory Preemption at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CPR White Paper 804

Type: Reports (July 16, 2008)
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Author(s): Bill Funk, Thomas McGarity, Nina Mendelson, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck, Matt Shudtz
The danger in defective medical devices

The danger in defective medical devices, op-ed by Thomas McGarity

Type: Op-Eds (Dec. 4, 2007)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety

The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety, by William Funk, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck and Karen Sokol, White Paper 704

Type: Reports (Sept. 12, 2007)
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Author(s): Bill Funk, Sidney Shapiro, David Vladeck, Karen Sokol
The Truth about Torts: Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The Truth about Torts: Lawyers, Guns, and Money, by Thomas O. McGarity, Douglas A. Kysar, and Karen Sokol, White Paper 603, July 2006.

Type: Reports (July 12, 2006)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Douglas Kysar, Karen Sokol
Rescuing Science from Politics: Regulation and the Distortion of Scientific Research

Published in July 2006, Rescuing Science from Politics debuted chapters by the nation's leading academics in law, science, and philosophy who explore ways that the law can be abused by special interests to intrude on the way scientists conduct research. The book begins by establishing non-controversial principles of good scientific practice. These principles then serve as the benchmark against which each chapter author compares how science is misused in a specific regulatory setting and assist in isolating problems in the integration of science by the regulatory process.

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Author(s): Wendy Wagner, Rena Steinzor
Bullies Along the Potomac

Bullies Along the Potomac, op-ed by Nina Mendelson

Type: Op-Eds (July 5, 2006)
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Author(s): Nina Mendelson

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