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Congress Moves Closer to Making Foreign Manufacturers Accountable

June 28, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Congress is moving closer to giving consumers in Nevada and the nation more legal recourse if they are injured by a product that is manufactured overseas. Christine Zinner, associate director of public affairs for the American Association for Justice, says 83 percent of the defective goods that were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2009 were foreign-made.

The recalled products ranged from defective drywall to dangerous toys. Zinner says Congress is now looking to hold overseas manufacturers accountable.

"Foreign manufacturers right now are able to kind of skirt the law when it comes time for them to be responsible for a product. It's really unfair. What this legislation does is level the playing field for everyone. It says, 'If you want to sell your goods in the U.S., then you have to abide by the rules here.'"

The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act would apply to all foreign-made products that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Ami Gahdia, policy counsel with Consumers Union, testified before Congress last week. She says a wide range of products are responsible for consumer injuries, but people here in the United States have had little legal redress.

"The legislation applies to things like the toys that we saw that came from China with the lead paint in them, and to certain medical products coming from overseas, like tainted heparin - that made people sick and even killed a few people."

Zinner says some American businesses are backing the measures because, right now, many of them end up holding the bag if they sold the item in question.

"When consumers aren't able to hold the foreign manufacturer accountable, it kind of forces them to have go to the U.S. business that sold the goods or supplied the goods. That's why this legislation really helps level the playing field for U.S. businesses."

The bill numbers are S 1606 and HR 4678.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV