Eight of the nation's leading consumer groups are calling on President Obama and Congress to give consumers a greater voice in Washington. The groups also want our leaders to do more to help consumers get a fair shake in the marketplace.
The groups -- including ours, Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports -- are pushing for continued improvements in health care, tougher safety standards for food and products, and expanded efforts to stop rip-offs by financial services.
Other items on our agenda include privacy protections, energy and telecommunications reforms, consumer legal rights, and stronger policies to ensure our markets are open and competitive.
This agenda was recently submitted to the White House and Congress by CU, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumers League, National Consumer Law Center, Public Citizen, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
"The agenda we are providing today is a key starting point for our recommendations regarding the top issues for consumers," the groups wrote. "By working together and helping consumers make more informed decisions, we are building an influential consumer movement that will be a force for change."
Under the heading "An Agenda to Ensure Consumers are Heard" our organizations laid out nine major initiatives for the president and lawmakers to consider:
• Elevate the consumer voice in government by reinstating the position of the White House Special Advisor on Consumer Affairs (a position once held by legendary consumer advocate Esther Peterson), holding regular meetings with consumer leaders, and convening a White House conference on the state of the consumer, fifty-one years after President Kennedy called on Congress to recognize basic consumer rights.
• Continue to work to make health care affordable, accessible, and safe. The groups urged policymakers to protect funds for helping patients under Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act by reducing wasteful spending, not by gutting services or shifting costs to consumers.
• Expand and build upon the financial consumer protections secured in recent years, such as the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
• Ensure the food we eat and products we buy are safe by moving forward on still-pending food safety rules and implementing tougher standards for babies' toys and other infant and toddler items.
• Provide consumers with affordable and sustainable energy options by promoting clean energy and addressing climate change.
• Ensure that the Internet and other telecommunications services are affordable and widely available to consumers, and support measures to help web users gain greater control over their private information.
• Strengthen regulations that improve our quality of life and protect our health and safety, such as rules that keep dangerous products off the shelves, and regulations that crack down on unscrupulous lenders and scam artists. At the same time, policymakers should oppose efforts to undercut the regulatory process and weaken these rules.
• Improve consumers' legal rights by enacting legislation to make the justice system more open and accessible to consumers.
• Promote competition in the marketplace through tough enforcement of antitrust prohibitions on company mergers, and oppose monopolistic practices that lead to exorbitant price hikes and fewer choices for consumers.
The letters were delivered to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
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