In a rare and stunning congressional victory for safety, Congress has passed a safety law which mandates not only that all products sport larger and more thorough warning labels, but that each product comes with an actual person to read those warning labels to the purchaser. We here at IS view this legislation as a win, because now no one can be caught off guard by difficult to understand warnings and safety information.
As a provision of the labeling requirements, warning labels must take up a minimum of 20% of the surface area of the packaging. This number was chosen because it represents one whole side of a cube-shaped box. The requirements for the reader not only include that the reader is available, but that the reader explains all warnings to the consumer until the consumer can demonstrate that he or she understands. There is no time limit on this provision, and champions of the bill agreed that it should take ‘as long as it takes.’ There is no time limit on consumer safety, so there should be no time limit on making sure consumers understand the dangers of the products they buy.
A spokesperson for the Consumer Products Safety Commission said that the problem is the short attention span and poor vocabulary of the average American. Duncan Bonk, of the CPSC, stated,
Any word more than three syllables is too much for the average American. Oops, I’m sorry. I used the word ‘syllable,’ so I probably just lost half my audience. Walmart is on board with the new provisions, and that’s really all we need to move forward. They have a legion of $9 per hour employees ready to follow you home to read your warnings. Also, since the tax payers are putting in $15 an hour to have these employees perform these tasks everyone wins.
Opponents of the measure suggest that the burdens of complying with the bill will bankrupt many small companies, and make some products, such as guns and cars, so prohibitively expensive that no one will be able to afford them. While some of that may be true, the importance of safety cannot be understated. What price, peace of mind?