by Deepak Gupta
It's been an eventful week in consumer law and policy in Washington so far. Here are a few highlights:
- Senate confirms two new Federal Trade Commissioners -- Julie Brill and Edith Ramirez. Brill worked on a wide range of consumer-protection issues in the Vermont AG's office for two decades and was more recently head of consumer-protection in the North Carolina AG's office. She is a very pro-consumer appointment, and gives Chairman Jon Leibowitz a 3-2 majority of Democratic appointees.
- FDA launches broad crackdown on misleading food labels. The agency sent warning letters to 17 food companies, including major brands like Beech-Nut, Gerber, and Nestle.
- CFPA fights heats up. As we've been discussing for the past week, the debate in Congress over creation of an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency has intensified, with leading Democrats blasting the proposal to put the CFPA within the Fed--a proposal at odds with rationale for the legislation in the first place. Sen. Dodd has proposed a "Bureau of Financial Protection" within Treasury. Today, Dodd equivocated, calling for an "office" rather than an agency. ("A lot of attention is being paid to what address the new consumer watchdog will have," he said, "but the critical question is 'Will this office have the authority and independence it needs?'").
- New rules on FreeCreditReport.com and similar scams. Using its authority under the Credit CARD Act of 2009, the FTC has issued new rules that don't ban the scams entirely, but require prominent disclosures letting people know that they can get the same information for free at annualcreditreport.com. The web rules go into effect on April, but companies have until September 1 to modify their dceptive TV ads. It's about time; I've known several otherwise saavy people who have fallen victim to this scam.
- Court rejects Honda coupon settlement. Agreeing with objections filed by Public Citizen and 26 state AGs, a federal district court in California rejected a nationwide coupon settlement over claims that Honda misled its customers about the Civic Hybrid's fuel economy.