This Week in Consumer Policy

By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud

Recent weeks have been historic ones for consumers from a public policy perspective.  On Wednesday, June 20, President Obama signed in to law two pieces of legislation designed to protect consumers from predatory lending in the housing market – the Helping Families Save their Home Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act.   Scarcely 48 hours later, the President signed an even more far-reaching piece of pro-consumer legislation, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (CARD Act).  NCL was at the White House to witness history and celebrate these hard-won victories.   After nearly a decade of playing defense on consumer protection in Washington, it seems like the pendulum is finally swinging back in consumers’ favor.

As the nation’s oldest consumer organization, we’ve seen our fair share of the daily back-and-forth that characterizes the way that public policy is crafted in Washington.  To outsiders, the process can often seem mind-numbingly confusing in its complexity.  To address this issue, we’d like to occasionally highlight the most important consumer issues bubbling up here in Washington and attempt to explain how they can affect consumers.

The legislation noted above is hugely significant, making consumers better off than they were before these laws went into effect.  However, there is much work to be done.  This week, Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess to face a host of consumer issues.   Highlights include:

  • FTC Business Opportunity Rule Workshop – Monday, June 1, 9:00 AM – The day-long public workshop will explore proposed changes to the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule, requiring that companies selling business opportunities (such as franchises)  provide a one-page Business Opportunity Disclosure Form to prospective purchasers.   Information to help consumers and businesses avoid business opportunity fraud is available from the FTC by clicking here.
  • Legislative hearing on the discussion draft of the Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009Wednesday, June 3 , 10:00 AM –  Coming on the heels of the a rash of food safety scare involving salmonella in peanut products, melamine in milk, and E coli in spinach, this bill would increase the oversight authority of the Food and Drug Administration and give the agency additional resources to carry out this increased oversight role (click here for a bill summary and click here for additional analysis from The Washington Post).  Health Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee, 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
  • FCC Open Commission Meeting Focuses on DTV TransitionWednesday, June 3, 9:30 AM – The FCC’s meeting will include presentations by the agency, industry, and consumer groups involved in the DTV transition.  In February, NCL supported the DTV Delay Act, which moved the deadline for analog-broadcast shutoff to June 12.  NCL is a member of the DTV Transition Coalition.
  • Senate Commerce Committee Hearing:GM And Chrysler Dealership Closures: Protecting Dealers And Consumers” – Wednesday, June 3, 2:30 PM – The announced closure of more than 4,300 Chrylser and GM dealerships over the next two years will have a big impact on local communities, jobs, and broadcast and print journalism (dealers are among the largest local advertisers).  In addition, millions of Chrysler and GM cars currently on the road will continue to need to be serviced.  These closures will have an impact on consumers looking to these dealerships for that service. Click here for additional information.

As you can see, this week is shaping up to be a busy one for consumer advocates!  If you know of an event that we missed, please feel free to email me at johnb@nclnet.org.

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