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.

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
Webinar: Achieving Social Justice Through Better Regulation

Following up on CPR's June 2019 Regulation as Social Justice Conference, and the subsequent report on it, on December 11, 2019, Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and CPR's Amy Sinden and James Goodwin discussed the future of regulation, and how it can do a better job of serving the interests of the political dispossessed.

Type: Webinars (Dec. 11, 2019)
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Author(s): Amy Sinden, James Goodwin
Regulation as Social Justice: A Crowdsourced Blueprint for Building a Progressive Regulatory System

On June 5, 2019, the Center for Progressive Reform hosted a first-of-its-kind, one-day convening that brought together a diverse group of more than 60 progressive activists and academics. Our purpose was to begin the process of developing a progressive vision of the U.S. regulatory system – one that is not only robust and responsive enough to meet the immediate challenge of protecting people and the environment against unacceptable risks, but that also is institutionally designed to promote the broader social goals of justice and equity. CPR's James Goodwin synthesized the ideas into a report.

Type: Reports (Sept. 25, 2019)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
Joint letter on the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act)

CPR joined dozens of other national consumer organizations calling on House leadership to support the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act). The bill would prevent companies from forcing aggrieved workers, consumers, servicemembers, nursing home residents, and small businesses into secretive, company-controlled, rigged, private arbitration systems to settle disputes.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Sept. 18, 2019)
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Congress should not manage opioid drug labels

CPR's Tom McGarity urges Congress to exercise care in legislating labeling for opioids.

Type: Op-Eds (July 23, 2019)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity
Regulation as Social Justice Convening Briefing Memo

In this briefing memo for participants in CPR's June 5, 2019, Regulation as Social Justice conference, James Goodwin sets the table for discussions aimed at devising reforms for the regulatory system so that it can do a better job promoting social justice and addressing unmet community needs.

Type: Reports (June 5, 2019)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
The Truth About Torts: Closing the Courthouse Door

In recent years, efforts to rein in excesses of corporations have run head-long into an assault on individuals' right to bring suit against manufacturers whose products or activities cause them harm. This push for what its backers call “tort reform,” has been driven by a seemingly endless stream of thinly fact-checked anecdotes about frivolous lawsuits and by a brazen effort to blame the rising costs of health care on malpractice lawsuits. CPR’s Member Scholars have conducted extensive research on the implications of "tort reform," and in a series of reports have debunked most of industry’s claims about the need for such measures.

Type: Reports (Jan. 1, 2019)
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