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109th Congress Fails American Consumers

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006

109th Congress Fails American Consumers; Vital Health, Privacy, Pocketbook Issues Ignored

(Washington, D.C.) — In the waning days of the 109th Congress, American consumers should take stock of many issues that Congress neglected or failed to address on their behalf, including critical health, privacy and pocketbook issues, Consumers Union said.
“This Congress simply failed to respond to the needs of consumers, and unfortunately, we’ll all feel it in our wallets in years to come,” said Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal and international affairs for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
“Spiraling healthcare costs, out-of-control cable and phone bills, the growing threat of identity theft, and product and food safety – all are issues that simply weren’t dealt with by this Congress,” Kimmelman said. “It’s unfortunate that so many opportunities to really help American consumers were simply ignored.”
  • Congress did nothing to address the growing problem of identity theft. Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by security breaches since February 2005, when we first learned that the data broker, ChoicePoint, had sold Social Security numbers and personal data on over 160,000 people to professional thieves.

  • Major gaps in our nation’s drug safety system were not plugged by Congress, including the Food and Drug Administration’s lack of authority to make pharmaceutical companies perform safety studies once drugs are on the market, and requiring public clinical trial results so consumers know all the pros and cons of a medication.
  • In the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, Congress failed to overturn the ban on negotiating deep discounts on drug prices, and it ignored the “donut hole,” the period of time when seniors and the disabled have no drug coverage. It also avoided addressing the lack of health insurance coverage in our nation, as the number of uninsured grew to more than 46 million.
  • Congress did not pass a bill to protect our nation’s children from avoidable, yet tragic, accidents in and around cars. These accidents have resulted in over 1,000 deaths since 1999, yet Congress did not vote on legislation that would require automakers to use existing technology to prevent such deadly hazards as being backed over by vehicles with large blind spots, or being strangled by a power window.
  • Congress failed to tackle the long-term problems that contribute to gasoline and energy price spikes that have cost consumers billions. Congress failed to set clear targets to reduce consumption, ignored the need to improve fuel efficiency standards, or adequately fund the development of alternative energy sources. It also failed to prevent pricing abuse in the energy markets through monitoring the structure and conduct of such markets, including the electronic trading of energy futures.
  • Congress chose not to help lower our cable bills, or protect the Internet from anti-competitive practices by cable and phone companies, when it failed to push forward on telecommunications legislation to ensure that the benefits of new video competition are available to all consumers. It also failed to protect the privacy of consumers’ cell phone records.
  • Congress failed to make our food any safer. Congress did nothing to address the recent outbreak of E. coli bacteria linked to spinach, or eradicate the threat of mad cow disease by ensuring more testing of cattle. Instead, many in Congress tried to weaken existing food safety protections by pushing for legislation that would undermine more than 200 state and local food safety laws.

Contact: Susan Herold, 202-462-6262