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Will CPSC's New Chairman Bring Changes for Consumer Protection?

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Consumer concerns have clearly shifted since the new administration took office. Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's chairman, Elliot Kaye, stepped down, following other democratic leaders facing pressure from the Republican administration. Although it is unclear why exactly Mr. Kaye stepped down as chairman, he still retains his tenacity as well as his position as a commissioner and key decision maker.

Kaye headed the commission during an exciting time where it finally was able to enforce significant fines against businesses that violate consumer protection laws. Under Kaye, the CPSC was able to achieve numerous multi-million dollar settlements from companies that ignored consumer safety issues. The new chairman, Ann Marie Buerkle, is a former Republican congress woman, and current commissioner as well. However, she opposes the CPSC's new found ability to fine businesses heavily.

Trump's Regulatory Reform Shaking Consumer Confidence

Since Trump took office, consumer confidence has slowly been eroding. Particularly with the new chairman of the CPSC, it makes sense why nearly 66% of Americans don't trust the government to look out for their interests. Furthermore, with the speed with which technology is advancing, particularly in the automotive and digital-device sectors, organizations like the CPSC are what protect consumers from businesses risking consumer safety in order to profit.

Less Regulations, Lighter Fines?

Although Buerkle claims that nothing will change with CPSC's mission, it is anticipated that she will push for less regulations and lighter fines. So while the CPSC's mission may not change, the stick they use to enforce consumer protection regulations is certainly expected to get shorter, meaning more businesses will be able to just consider CPSC fines part of the cost of doing business. Prior to the CPSC new authority to fine, violations were capped at $8,000 per violation, however, now it has the power to fine businesses up to $100,000 per violation.

Kaye was outspoken in his determination to run the agency 100% independently from any influence from the executive branch. On February 2nd of this year, Kaye even went so far as to call out President Trump's regulatory policies as effectively being a "poor public policy decision" for the CPSC to follow, and insisted that he would not follow the 1-in, 2-out executive order.

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