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.

Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond

CPR's close look at nitrate pollution in drinking water on Maryland's Eastern Shore raises serious safety concerns. According to county data in the region, tens of thousands of residents are drinking water with elevated nitrate levels, almost certainly due to animal waste from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) nearby. Moreover, the state's lax requirements for well water testing makes it impossible to know just how widespread the problem is.

Type: Reports (Oct. 21, 2020)
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Author(s): Katlyn Schmitt, Darya Minovi
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Reflections and Remembrances

CPR's Member Scholars and staff reflect on the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Type: Reports (Oct. 2, 2020)
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Her Black Coffee Always Brewed Strong

CPR's Gillian Metzger, joins fellow Ruth Bader Ginsburg former clerk Abbe Gluck in a New York Times tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice.

Type: Op-Eds (Sept. 22, 2020)
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Author(s): Gillian Metzger
Joint letter opposing federal liability shield during COVID-19

In July 2020, a group of 136 law professors from across the United States, including 31 Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars, wrote to congressional leaders urging them to “ensure that our courthouse doors remain open to all Americans for injuries they suffer from negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Type: Legislative Testimony (July 28, 2020)
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Ellison extends a proud history: Holding ExxonMobil and Koch accountable

Writing in MinnPost, Alexandra Klass applauds the effort to hold major corporate contributors to climate change accountable by means of a consumer protection lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. The suit seeks restitution and penalties for the harm to Minnesotans from the industry's decades-long effort to mislead the public about climate change and its origins.

Type: Op-Eds (July 14, 2020)
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Author(s): Alexandra Klass
The Seila Law Case: Liberty and Political Firing

David Driesen, writing in The Hill, discusses the implications of the Supreme Court's decision in the Seila Law case, over President Trump's firing of the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for political reasons. Driesen writes, "Astonishingly, Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion associates the president’s ability to use political firing to instill fear in government employees with the preservation of liberty."

Type: Op-Eds (July 1, 2020)
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Author(s): David Driesen
The Trump Administration’s Pandemic Response is Structured to Fail

Writing for the Regulatory Review, CPR Member Scholars Alejandro Camacho and Robert Glicksman describe the structural failings of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Type: Op-Eds (May 19, 2020)
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Author(s): Alejandro Camacho, Robert Glicksman
Letter to Congressional Leaders Opposing Coronavirus Liability Shield

Responding to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to attach to a future stimulus bill a liability shield for companies that fail to protect workers or consumers from the coronavirus, CPR Member Scholars and staff wrote to congressional leaders urging that they not interfere with the ability of workers, consumers, and members of their families to hold businesses accountable when their unreasonably dangerous actions have caused them to contract COVID-19.

Type: Legislative Testimony (May 11, 2020)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

In the Baltimore Sun: President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.

Type: Op-Eds (May 4, 2020)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz, Rachel Micah-Jones
Joint Letter to Congress on Supporting a Resilient Food System in Coronavirus Stimulus Bills

CPR joined more than 50 organizations in a letter urging Congress to ensure that its coronavirus stimulus legislation protects food workers and producers and a safe, resilient food system instead of exploitative industrial livestock production.

Type: Legislative Testimony (April 15, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy

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