Critics Say Consumer Agency Needs Complete Overhaul

The CPSC is understaffed and underfunded, and it needs a complete overhaul of its mission if it’s to be effective at all in protecting US consumers, says Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D):

“The laws are written sadly in a way to make it next to impossible to protect consumers. 401 (CPSC) employees today trying to manage trillions of dollars in products … they do not have enough cops on the beat.”

He’s proposed a bill that raises the CPSC’s funding from $63 million now to $70 million in 2008, and $100 million by 2012. The bill would also give the CPSC the power to increase fines from the current $1.25 million limit to as high as $20 million, which is double what even the CPSC thinks it should be able to levy: “The idea of a civil penalty isn’t to put companies out of business,” says a CPSC spokesperson.

The CPSC’s current limited effectiveness stems from the fact that it was set up to work with corporations, not to police them. And its reach and capabilities have been slowly strangled by the government almost since its inception in the 1970s; it’s dropped from a staff of nearly 1000 in 1980 to 401 today. Ralph Nader sums it up for Reuters: “[Congress] put the CPSC into a consensual mode. It doesn’t have much bargaining power. It doesn’t have much leverage. It has authority deficiencies, budgetary deficiencies, statutory deficiencies.”

Durbin has proposed a second bill that would require testing on all toys designed for children 5 and younger.

“Critics call U.S. consumer agency toothless” [Reuters]
(Photo: Getty)