Product Safety; Rigid Regulations Are Uncalled For
Byline: Maureen Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Congress is considering a variety of bills to improve product safety in the wake of recent well-publicized scares involving food, toys, pet food and other products. Initiatives to boost the resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Customs and Border Protection are long overdue. However, under the guise of enhancing consumer safety, some members of Congress are pushing "safety" bills that provide for tax increases, penalties and other changes that punish honest companies by opening the floodgates for baseless lawsuits and hurt the very consumers who need reasonable, workable protection.
Manufacturers, importers and retailers all support efforts to implement a more effective system for inspecting, regulating, and recalling unsafe food and consumer products, both imported and domestic. Yet in clamoring for reform, Congress must ensure that any new laws actually accomplish the goal of improving product safety. Lawmakers need to act reasonably and to remember that they are ultimately responsible to American consumers who want and benefit from a wide variety of well-priced, high-quality and safe merchandise.
Taxes, enormous fines or new penalties will not themselves provide solutions for product safety, but they may limit consumer choice and discourage even the most responsible companies from competing, creating a vacuum that will be filled by fly-by-night companies with limited assets that often close up shop before government enforcers can find them.
Some of these bills would impose "user fees" on imported consumer products, designating the funds for beefed-up inspections. These user fees are really hidden taxes that raise prices for U.S. consumers who are already victimized by the failings of the current system. Taxing imports to pay for increased inspections ignores the fact that many big recalls involve products made or designed in the United States.
This unfairly taints imports as the source of the problem and would violate international rules. Imposing new fees on imports also effectively increases prices, threatening access to a range of goods that comprise a significant portion of the average household budget - and introducing even more uncertainty into our volatile economy.
Other legislation would limit the number of U. …