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.

Barack Obama's Path to Progress in 2015-16: Thirteen Essential Regulatory Actions [UPDATED]

In 2014, the Center for Progressive Reform issued a report identifying 13 key regulatory actions that the Obama administration should be certain to finish before June of 2016, in order to ensure that the rules would 1) make it out of the regulatory pipeline during Obama's tenure, and 2) be finalized in time to be safe from repeal by the successor administration. In 2016, CPR followed up to see whether the Obama administration had adopted the necessary sense of urgency. (Read the online version of this report for the 2016 updates.)

Type: Reports (Aug. 1, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, James Goodwin, Matt Shudtz, Anne Havemann
How a hidden clause helps banks and others rip you off

Writing in the Charlotte Observer, CPR's Sidney Shapiro urges the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to do more to combat forced arbitration. May 12, 2016

Type: Op-Eds (May 12, 2016)
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Author(s): Sidney Shapiro
Dangerous Bedfellows: The stalemate on criminal justice reform.

Writing for The American Prospect, Rena Steinzor takes note of the unusual roll call of supporters for criminal justice reform legislation, and efforts by conservatives to use the bill to weaken enforcement of white-collar crime laws.

Type: Op-Eds (May 11, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Forced Arbitration Clauses Deny Justice to Consumers

Forced Arbitration Clauses Deny Justice to Consumers

Type: Editorial Memos (May 9, 2016)
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Regulating Forced Arbitration in Consumer Financial Services: Re-Opening the Courthouse Doors to Victimized Consumers
Type: Reports (May 4, 2016)
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Author(s): Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, James Goodwin, Mollie Rosenzweig
CPR's comments on USDA FY 2017 appropriations

CPR's comments on USDA FY 2017 appropriations

Type: Legislative Testimony (March 15, 2016)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz
Food Safety’s Criminal State of Mind

Writing for Food Safety News, Rena Steinzor describes an effort by corporate heavyweights to scuttle the "responsible corporate officer" doctrine established by the Supreme Court, which seeks to hold to hold executives accountable for harm done by dangerous food or products, if the executives failed to take sufficient care to ensure safety.

Type: Op-Eds (Jan. 6, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Delving into GM's Crimes

Delving into GM's Crimes, op-ed by Rena Steinzor and Rob Weissman

Type: Op-Eds (Oct. 6, 2015)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
VW and GM scandals show why regulation matters

VW and GM scandals show why regulation matters, op-ed by Rena Steinzor and Rob Verchcik

Type: Op-Eds (Sept. 30, 2015)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Robert Verchick

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