Since President Ford took office in 1974, many of his legislation proposals and administrative actions have been directed at reducing the problems consumers face in today's marketplace.
Federal Deposit Insurance Increase
In October 1974, the President signed Public Law 93-495, doubling the ceiling on Federal insurance provided to bank, credit union, and savings and loan company depositors--from $20,000 to $40,000. The law protects charge customers from the effects of billing errors, and prohibits discrimination based on sex or marital status in granting and denying credit.
Repeal of Fair Trade Laws
Last December the President was especially pleased to sign H. L. 6971, repealing the "fair trade" laws. At that time the President said:
"The best way to ensure that consumers are paying the most reasonable price for consumer products is to restore competition in the marketplace. This legislation will do that."
Consumer Product Safety Commission
The Consumer Product Safety Commission was established in 1974 to protect Americans from unreasonable risk of injury from the use of hazardous products. In May 1976, the President Ford signed a bill which:
"If consumer product regulation is to have real meaning, adequate tools must be provided the Commission responsible for protecting the American consumer. The Act I have signed provides such tools."
Other Presidential Initiatives
The President has instituted other measures to protect consumers from unfair business practices and from over-regulation by government. In other major actions to protect and aid consumers, President Ford:
President Ford has also given renewed emphasis to the nation's historic consumer protection method, anti-trust laws. His proposed budget for Fiscal Year 1977 contains funding for additional personnel in this specific area.
"And I might add that last year I recommended that the penalties for violation of the antitrust laws be increased . . . They were ridiculously low. They have been substantially increased so now those who perpetrate monopolistic practices will really be penalized in dollars as well as . . . any criminal penalties . . ."
Fort Myers, Florida
February 14, 1976
Proposals to Congress
Although President Ford's accomplishments in consumer affairs are themselves impressive, he has also proposed to the Congress other legislation in this area:
President Ford's support in other areas of national interest have also furthered the consumer interest:
"Regulatory reform is one of the most important vehicles for improving consumer protection. Outdated regulatory practices lead to higher prices and reduced services."
Departmental Consumer Representation Plan
In recognition of the need for greater consumer protection, as well as consumer input into the decision-making processes of agencies, President Ford, after a meeting of his Cabinet in April of 1975, directed all Federal departments and agencies to develop Consumer Representation Plans. The President believes that this approach represents a more effective alternative than the creation of a wholly new agency for consumer advocacy.
"I am convinced we can resolve by better administration what Congress is attempting to resolve by new laws and a costly new Government agency. The steps we have taken will prove to be responsive to the needs of the American consumer and the concerns of the American public."
To involve the consumers themselves, President Ford then approved a series of White House Conferences on Consumer Representation Plans, which were held in cities across the country during January 1976.
All eleven departments and six agencies have responded with proposals for handling consumer affairs within their own existing structures and for allowing consumer input into their decision-making processes at the very outset, before decisions are made and policies are formed. Each of these proposals was printed in the Federal Register for November 26, 1975, and because of those comments, and further agency introspection, as well as conferences with many consumer organizations, the initial plans have been finalized and will be published within the next few weeks.
Contained in those proposals are many common recommendations and goals which reflected considerable sensitivity and responsiveness to the problems of the consumer. Among them are:
Opposition to a Consumer Protection Agency
President Ford believes that if consumerism is really to save American money, it cannot rely perpetually on adversary procedures, confrontation, and increasingly legalistic measures Furthermore, if the currently perceived problem is "unresponsive bureaucracy" what is the advantage of creating simply another government agency to add its own lawsuits to the dockets of our overloaded courts, its own costs to the tax burden of the consumer?
"I do not believe that we need yet another Federal bureaucracy in Washington, with its attendant costs of $60 million for the first three years and hundreds of additional Federal employees, in order to achieve better consumer representation and protection in Government. At a time when we are trying to cut down on both the size and cost of Government, it would be unsound to add another layer of bureaucracy instead of improving on the underlying structure."
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