CALPIRG-backed bills protect consumers and keep us safe

For over 40 years, we’ve stood up for consumer’s rights, worked to get dangerous products off store shelves, and advocated for an even playing field in the marketplace. This legislative session, this work is still in full swing. Here are three CALPIRG-backed bills that would expand consumer protections in California.

Sander Kushen

Former Consumer Advocate, CALPIRG

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#1: The Public Right to Know Act

With so many new products, services, and technologies being introduced into the marketplace every day, consumers deserve to have all the information available to keep themselves and their families safe from potential hazards. 

Unfortunately, litigation settlement agreements involving a public danger—such as a defective product or environmental hazard—have been known to include nondisclosure agreements that withhold important safety information from the public eye. 

This has allowed companies to withhold shocking and dangerous information that hurts the public: including withheld court information about the addictiveness of Oxycontin as well as several cases against a Bay Area construction company that made defective balconies that collapsed. 

While secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect personal information or legitimate trade secrets, it is not appropriate when it keeps information about ongoing dangers from the public.  

The Public Right to Know Act—also known as SB 1149 (Senator Connie Leyva)—would make sure that information about dangerous public hazards are not hidden behind legal documents. The bill would prohibit settlement agreements that restrict the disclosure of information about a defective product or environmental condition that poses a danger to public health or safety. 

Sign our petition to help pass the Public Right to Know Act.

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#2: Online disclosure to prevent scams

CALPIRG has worked hard over the years to enact consumer protections to protect people from unsafe products. These consumer protections are undermined if a counterfeiter can sell a similar item, without the proper safety measures. 

Unfortunately, with the rise of online shopping, many counterfeiters have been able to evade accountability by selling unsafe products. This is because third-party online sellers are often not required to disclose who they are or where their products came from.

Whether you are buying toys or masks, this lack of transparency can be extremely harmful. In our most recent annual toy safety report, we found several toys that had evaded basic safety testing and consumer disclosure requirements. Examples include toys that pose a choking hazard for kids under the age of 3 and toys containing harmful levels of toxics. 

As another example, in January the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about 60 percent of the KN95 masks out there are counterfeit and do not meet the standards of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. That means they likely won’t offer the protection people are looking for or expecting.

SB 301 (Senator Nancy Skinner) requires large third-party sellers on online marketplaces to disclose basic business information, which would allow the public to verify who and what is actually behind the products they are purchasing. 

People expect that the products they find on store shelves or online marketplaces have met basic safety and health standards. SB 301 is an important guardrail to ensure we meet that expectation.

Sign our petition to help pass SB 301.

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#3: Making warranties make sense

Express warranties are a common tool used to guarantee consumers that the product they purchased is indeed what they paid for. If you’ve ever received a product that is faulty, damaged, or mischaracterized by the seller, an express warranty may have protected you from paying for that broken product. 

Unfortunately, there is a loophole that could effectively negate your entire warranty: Express warranties typically begin on the date of purchase, and not the date of delivery. 

This means that consumers who do not receive their product on the same day of their purchase can lose some or even all of their warranty protections depending on how long that product takes to get delivered. Pandemic-related supply chain issues and shipping delays exacerbate this problem further: Consumers are losing weeks or even months of their warranty protections.

This problem is not just hypothetical: A LA Times article spotlights an Azusa-based consumer whose warranty expired just days before his dryer broke down.  Had his warranty started when he purchased the dryer (instead of on the delivery date), it would have been covered.

Current warranty protections are not enough to guarantee consumers the basic protections that they expect under most warranties. AB 2912 (Assemblymember Marc Berman) would require that warranties start when a product is actually delivered to a consumer instead of on the date of purchase. This is a common-sense fix that would inspire consumer confidence and would ensure that warranties meet their basic purpose.

Sign our petition to help pass AB 2912.

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Sander Kushen

Former Consumer Advocate, CALPIRG

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