Seeking to capitalize on consumer fears stemming from a recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys due to trace levels of lead paint, Congress is seeking to both expand federal government power and render the uniform application of its laws useless.
On Monday night the Senate voted to take up legislation aimed at overhauling the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bill would double the agencies budget and increase the civil penalties companies face to $20 million. Worse the bill requires the CPSC to create a database for consumer complaints. While seemingly a good idea, such a website could become a haven for false information that damages innocent companies. Congress should make sure that: manufacturers have an opportunity to respond to negative information before it is posted; standard libel laws apply to consumer postings; and it is clear the CPSC does not vouch for the accuracy of anything in the database.
The most damaging aspect of the bill however is the authorization of state Attorney Generals to bring cases for violations of consumer safety. This would lead to a balkanization of consumer product regimes and make business for manufacturers and retailers impossible across the 50 states. he accuracy of the information. Think Eliot Spitzer times 50.