Things haven’t been easy lately for Nancy Nord, the Acting Chair of the CPSC. This was apparent at a Senate hearing last month when she asked in the middle of her testimony if she could leave the hearing and follow commissioner Thomas Moore to his dentist appointment. “It’s a sad day,” Nord said, “when you’d rather go to the dentist.”
Yet shockingly, she’s not exactly pleading with Congress for help. Last week the Acting Chair came out against a Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Pryor that would give the agency much needed additional funding and authority to oversee the safety of products on our shelves. The Washington Post reports:
The bill would increase the agency’s budget to $117 million from $62 million over five years and set aside $20 million to upgrade the testing facility. It seeks to strengthen the agency’s enforcement powers by raising the cap on civil penalties from $1.83 million to $100 million and giving the agency more control over how recalls are conducted.
The most controversial part of the bill for Nord would give the CPSC authority to disclose potential product hazards or if a company violates the Consumer Product Safety Act. Ok, here’s the really scary part: right now, manufacturers are given the opportunity to block the release of any information the agency has collected on safety issues related to their products. Can I ask who’s in charge here? Nord opposes the bill because she thinks manufacturers would be less likely to report problems if the agency cannot assure confidentiality.
Ironically, Nord opposed another part of the bill for the exact opposite reason. She voiced her opposition to raising the cap on civil penalties that the agency can levy against violators of their laws to $100 million from its current $1.83 million limit. Raising the limit, she thinks, will result in manufacturers becoming too careful and will “overwhelm” the agency with consumer complaints.
So, let’s see: Nord doesn’t want to dissuade manufacturers from reporting safety problems but doesn’t want them to file too many reports either. Perhaps she has forgotten that the law requires manufacturers to promptly report safety issues with their products so that the CPSC can take corrective action when appropriate.
The number of foreign-made products being recalled in the last five years has doubled just in the last few months. Over the past 30 years, the staff of the CPSC has fallen to around 400 employees with a budget of $63.25 million – roughly half of the level of funding thirty years ago when taking inflation into account.
Something’s got to give, the CPSC is broken and consumers are left vulnerable to hazardous products on the market. Why would Nord oppose this critically important bill? Congress can give some relief to her struggling agency