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.

Overcoming Environmental Data Gaps: Why What EPA Doesn't Know about Toxic Chemicals Can Hurt

Overcoming Environmental Data Gaps: Why What EPA Doesn't Know about Toxic Chemicals Can Hurt, by Rena Steinzor, Katherine Baer, and Matt Shudtz, White Paper 510, August 2005.

Type: Reports (July 13, 2005)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Matt Shudtz
The Truth about Torts: An Insurance Crisis, Not a Lawsuit Crisis

The Truth about Torts: An Insurance Crisis, Not a Lawsuit Crisis, by Thomas O. McGarity, Douglas A. Kysar, and Karen Sokol, White Paper 509, June 2005.

Type: Reports (June 15, 2005)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Douglas Kysar, Karen Sokol
MTBE and the Need for Effective Tort Law

MTBE and the Need for Effective Tort Law, by Thomas McGarity, White Paper 506, March 2005.

Type: Reports (March 6, 2005)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment

Writing for the Center for American Progress website, Christopher Schroeder and Rena Steinzor, co-editors of CPR's book, A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment, offer a summary of the work, which features contributions from 20 CPR Member Scholars.

Type: Op-Eds (Feb. 5, 2005)
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Author(s): Christopher Schroeder, Rena Steinzor
CPR Perspective: The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment

CPR Perspective: 'The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment,' by Bill Funk. 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 (Jan. 1, 2005)
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Author(s): Bill Funk
Tort Law, Texas Style

On the Center for American Progress website, Douglas Kysar writes that "Conservative lawmakers and right-wing policy institutes would have us believe that one of the most pressing issues facing the nation today is the problem of 'regulation through litigation.' Across the country, power-hungry officials are said to be conspiring with greedy lawyers and activist judges to pursue regulatory agendas that have not, or could not, be successfully achieved through legislative channels. Given this relentless conservative refrain, it was surprising to learn that the latest example of 'regulation through litigation' was launched by Cornyn's successor as Texas state attorney general, Greg Abbott...."

Type: Op-Eds (Oct. 20, 2004)
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Author(s): Douglas Kysar
Stealth Tort Reform: How the Bush Administration's Aggressive Use of the Preemption Doctrine Hurts Consumers

Stealth Tort Reform: How the Bush Administration's Aggressive Use of the Preemption Doctrine Hurts Consumers, by Margaret Giblin. White Paper 403, October 2004.

Type: Reports (Oct. 13, 2004)
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Author(s): Margaret Giblin
July 22, 2004. New Study Reveals Gaping Holes in Mad Cow 'Firewall'

New Study Reveals Gaping Holes in Mad Cow 'Firewall'

Type: News Releases (July 22, 2004)
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Mad Cow 'Firewalls' Just a Smokescreen

Writing on the Center for American Progress website, Tom McGarity observes that seven months into the discovery of Mad Cow disease in a Washington state cattle herd, it's time for the Bush Department of Agriculture to have a comprehensive plan. But the so-called "firewalls" it touts are more about public relations than food safety.

Type: Op-Eds (July 22, 2004)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity

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