It’s not unusual to hear someone grouse about the intrusiveness of government regulations. All of this talk of “big-brother”, the “nanny-state” and government regulations’ strangulation of business goes on and on. Some of it is legitimate, no doubt.
But let’s acknowledge a few examples of how government regulation helps the consumer and protects us all from unscrupulous business practices.
America’s favorite coffee franchise got busted. That’s right. In August the Massachusetts office of Consumer Affairs found out that Starbucks had been adding a surcharge of $1.50 for bags of coffee beans weighing less than 1 lb, and neglected to inform the consumer. Starbucks had listed a blend of coffee beans as $12 / lb, but the were actually charging $7.45 for a half pound bag.
What about the passenger bill of rights? You know, the law that says airlines can’t kidnap passengers and hold them on a tarmac indefinitely. Before these sets of protections were enacted airlines could keep passengers in virtual “prisoner” onboard an airplane with no food, water or bathroom for hours on end. Now, after 3 hours they have to allow passengers to return to the gate. If they don’t they can be fined as much as $20,000 per passenger. Don’t believe it? Just ask American Eagle. They were recently fined almost $1 million for violating this law.
Another example of successful (and necessary) government regulation: how about stop signs and stop lights? Going back to the days of the horse and buggy, traffic in big cities was often heavy. Police officers had to be stationed at busy intersections full time in order to direct traffic. The stop sign was devised in an effort to reduce horse-and-buggy accidents in populated areas. With the coming of automobiles, the situation got even worse. The traffic light was seen as a way to adapt railroad signals for street use in order to control the flow of traffic. Just imagine automobile and pedestrian travel without either of these.
A final example of winning government regulation would be the “Card Act”. This act represents a huge turning point for today’s consumer. Consider the fact that Americans pay billions of dollars annually in penalty fees alone, on their credit cards, and you begin to understand the significance of this law. Finance website www.mybanktracker.com calls the 2009 “Card Act” one of the most effective consumer protection policies of the century. Here are some of the highlights of this law:
- The act limits when credit card issuers can increase interest rates.
- Credit card issuers must notify consumers of significant changes in the terms on their accounts at least 45 days before they take effect.
- The law places limitations on the marketing and issuing of credit cards to those under 21 years of age.
- Predatory lenders are no longer allowed on college campuses.
The next time you hear someone complain about government regulation being a drain on our economy mention the benefits that intelligent laws provide for all of us. I’m sure that these people are happily benefiting from several that they simply take for granted.