CFA News Update- November 3, 2011

CPSC Votes to Implement Independent Safety Testing of Children’s Products

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-2 last month to adopt independent third-party testing rules for domestic manufacturers, importers and private labelers of children’s products.  Under the rules, which include a framework regarding periodic testing to ensure continued compliance, firms will be required to test and certify that their children’s products comply with U.S. product safety standards as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.  Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and Kids in Danger hailed the vote as a critical victory in helping families protect their children, as well as helping prevent expensive and disruptive recalls.  “Independent third party testing for children’s products is a cornerstone of the CPSIA,” said CFA Senior Counsel Rachel Weintraub. “To ensure that products meet strict safety standards, testing them to those standards, before they end up in our homes and in our children's hands, is necessary. We applaud CPSC’s vote in favor of these third party testing rules.”

FCC Reforms its Universal Service Fund

In what the agency is billing as “the most significant policy step ever taken to connect all Americans to high-speed Internet, wherever they live,” the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously last month to comprehensively reform its Universal Service 
Fund and intercarrier compensation systems.  “The Federal Communications Commission deserves kudos for keeping the public interest in mind in tackling the complex problem of intercarrier compensation and the high cost fund,” said CFA Research Director Mark Cooper in a public statement in response to the vote.  Cooper praised the agency for rejecting the “totally self-serving industry proposal” and for getting four-and-a-half out of five issues addressed in the plan right.  “Given the horrendously anti-consumer history of intercarrier compensation and interstate cost recovery, four-and-a half out of five is way above the curve,” he said.

Listeria Outbreak Highlights Need for Fully Funded FDA

The Food and Drug Administration issued a report last month on factors that may have contributed to the contamination of cantaloupes linked to a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that caused 133 illnesses, 28 deaths and one miscarriage across 26 states earlier this year. With its focus on unsanitary conditions in the packing plant, the FDA report highlights  the importance of ensuring the FDA has the resources necessary to develop and enforce strong produce safety standards, said Chris Waldrop, Director of CFA’s Food Policy Institute, in a press statement on the report.

“Good sanitation practices are essential components of ensuring food safety on the farm and in packing facilities,” Waldrop said.  “CFA expects that FDA will incorporate these types of sanitation measures into its pending proposed regulations for produce safety which are required as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.”  In addition, he said, it is critical that FDA receive the funding needed to complete these rules in a timely fashion and, once completed, to implement them effectively.  “As Congress considers appropriations legislation for the FDA, it is critical that the agency be provided with sufficient resources to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act and carry out its important public health mission of protecting the food supply,” he said.

New Voluntary Code to Address Wireless “Bill Shock”

Last month, CTIA – The Wireless Association and the Federal Communications Commission announced that they had reached agreement on a new code of conduct for participating wireless carriers that will implement and standardize the use of free alerts for consumers when they are approaching or exceeding their monthly limits on voice, data and text.  Designed to respond to the problem of “bill shock,” the agreement also includes alerts when a customer is about to incur a large roaming fee.  CFA Director of Research Mark Cooper called the agreement “an important step in the right direction that is filled with promise and peril.”

“The promise stems from the fact that in today’s dynamic, digital marketplace it is extremely difficult for regulatory agencies to keep up with changes in the market. The dynamic market makes consumer protection more important than ever, but also more difficult than ever. Alternative approaches to regulation that elicit the support of both business interests and public interests through transparent, ongoing and collaborative processes can deliver much consumer protection that is more effective because it is flexible and attuned to marketplace developments,” Cooper said.  “The danger is that the industry will see self-regulation as a way to avoid regulation – drawing up weak rules behind closed doors.”  To combat that risk, the FCC must “make it clear that it retains the right to regulate if self-regulation fails. This provides an important incentive for business to act in good faith,” he added.

Support CFA through Combined Federal Campaign

CFA is pleased to announce its participation in the 2011 Combined Federal Campaign. The campaign, which kicked off in September and concludes in mid-December, is the workplace charitable giving drive for all civilian, postal and military employees of the federal government.  Federal employees who choose to support CFA should use #52521 to designate their contribution.