Senator Amy Klobuchar

Working for the People of Minnesota

Consumer Protection

The first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens - not only from foreign and domestic threats to our nation's security, but also from criminals on the street, unsafe products in our stores, and unscrupulous business practices that harm American consumers.

Keeping Minnesotans safe means a commitment to consumer protection. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. However, as global commerce has increased, public concern has grown over the safety of many products imported from abroad - particularly from China - whether they are toys or charm bracelets, seafood or pet food, tires or toothpaste. We need to ensure that the agencies responsible for protecting consumers - such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration - have the necessary authorities and resources to perform their important duties.

In addition to keeping unsafe products off our shores and out of our stores, we must also remain vigilant in rooting out fraudulent or deceptive practices that impact family pocketbooks. Our financial and telecommunications markets have undergone rapid changes in the last few years. The housing market saw the emergence of predatory lenders that offered risky loans to homeowners and evaded the traditional financial safeguards meant to protect consumers. And the increasing integration of cell wireless and internet technologies into our lives has resulted in growing concerns over billing, privacy, and security.

In this complex economy, consumers need an advocate in Washington, someone who will fight to make sure that there is a "cop on the beat" to police the safety and integrity of consumer goods and services. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I will remain vigilant in working to ensure that the necessary safeguards and protections that American consumers deserve are in place.

As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:

  • Protecting consumers from unsafe products. Americans should be able to trust that the products they buy are safe. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe are being vigilant in doing their job to protect all American consumers from hazardous products.
  • Ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply. Over the past few years, we have seen outbreaks from contaminated pistachios, peanut butter, spinach, and peppers. These incidents have highlighted the need to reexamine our food safety laws and procedures in order to ensure we maintain a food supply with the highest-quality safety standards.
  • Reining in the reckless ways of Wall Street. In the past few decades, greed on Wall Street and government decisions that favored those at the top have made it harder and harder for families and small businesses to get ahead. We need to be vigilant to make sure that markets are working for consumers, not against them.
  • Cracking down on speculation in our energy markets. High gas prices are hurting consumers at the pump and increasing costs for our famers and businesses. We need tough oversight of our energy markets to protect American families from artificially high gas prices created by excessive speculation.
  • Defending consumer rights in the cell phone marketplace. A decade or so ago, cell phones were a novelty and a luxury. Today they are an integral part of the way we communicate - and for many people, the only phones they own. Yet, the wireless industry continues to operate under rules written two decades ago. Under these outdated rules consumers often feel the cell phone companies have the upper hand, writing restrictive contracts with punitive and confusing provisions, from early termination fees to inconsistent coverage information to deceptive billing practices. We must level the playing field between consumers and the wireless companies and enable consumers to make the best choice that fits their individual needs.

As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been fighting to strengthen our commitment to consumer protection:

  • Passing the most sweeping reform of our consumer product safety laws in decades. I was a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which was signed into law in August 2008, to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission the additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I crafted:
    • The first bans lead in children's products. Believe it or not, until now there has been no mandatory federal lead standard for children's products.
    • The second provision requires companies to stamp "batch numbers" on children's products and their packaging so that parents can quickly identify when a product in their home has been recalled by the government for safety reasons.
    • The third bans industry-paid travel by members and staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers must have confidence that their consumer regulators are free of influence by the industries they supervise.
  • Passing a new law to protect children from unsafe swimming pools. In December 2007 President Bush signed into law legislation that I helped write to improve the safety of our nation's public swimming pools. I took a personal interest in the issue of dangerous swimming pool drains after a horrific incident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina, Minnesota, was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail tragically died of complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics show dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet, legislation to correct the problem had been stalled in Congress for years.

    After consulting with the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation that had been pending before Congress for years. One made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. Both amendments were included in the final bill. One of my proudest moments as a senator was the night I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and that the President was signing it into law.
  • Modernizing our nation's food safety standards. I was an original cosponsor of the bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in January 2011. This new law will overhaul the nation's food safety system and strengthen the FDA's capacity to detect and respond to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. It will increase FDA inspections at all food facilities and give the FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall of contaminated food products. The law also includes a bipartisan provision I authored with Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) that will improve federal, state, and local officials' ability to investigate outbreaks. The provision will promote a more rapid and effective national response to outbreaks of food-borne sickness. I also supported strong Country of Origin Labeling requirements in the 2008 Farm Bill that defend the right of U.S. consumers to know where their food is produced. In December 2011 I urged the U.S. Trade Representative to appeal a recent decision from the World Trade Organization regarding this Country of Origin Labeling law, and I am committed to upholding these important provisions.
  • Putting Main Street ahead of Wall Street. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and savings, I fought for comprehensive reform in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This bill contains a number of provisions designed to protect consumers and restore transparency. Those measures include efforts to monitor and address systemic risk, increase accountability at financial firms, and reform the complex derivatives markets. To shield consumers from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, the bill creates an independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The final bill also included two amendments I co-authored to protect homebuyers from predatory lending practices, and to preserve the Federal Reserve's authority to supervise community banks to ensure that the institution charged with our nation's monetary policy has a connection to Main Street - not just Wall Street. I believe it is time for Wall Street to start operating by the same rules as the rest of us. The Wall Street reform bill is a critical step in making sure that happens, and will go a long way in strengthening our economy and ensuring that taxpayers are never again on the hook for bad bets on Wall Street.
  • Developing a cell phone consumer bill of rights. I authored the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act to help the over 250 million cell phone customers nationwide to make informed choices about wireless service that best fits their needs and budget. This includes requiring cell phone companies to prorate their early termination fees, so that consumers have greater freedom and don't have to pay prohibitive charges to change companies if they feel their provider is not delivering the service they were promised or if their needs have changed. It also means requiring cell phone providers to produce simple, easy-to-read bills and to furnish customers with complete, accurate information about service quality and coverage. In response to this legislation, we've seen wireless carriers begin to adopt more consumer-friendly reforms, such as pro-rating Early Termination Fees. I'm also a lead sponsor of the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act to require wireless carriers to give consumers complete and accurate information about their 4G wireless service, including information about minimum data speeds, coverage maps, and network reliability. I've pushed the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission and cosponsored legislation to crack down on deceptive billing practices, such as "cramming," in both landline and wireless bills to prevent phone bill shock.
  • Shielding children from inappropriate content. I cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which would help parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Federal Trade Commission to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the Internet by children and directing the U.S. Commerce Department to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. I also support V-Chip, Internet filters, and other new technology that give parents greater control over what their kids see on television and what they can do on the Internet. As a cosponsor of the KIDS Act, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against online predators.
  • Strengthening aviation safety standards. I introduced the bipartisan Aviation Safety Enhancement Act with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to toughen airline safety rules and bring an end to the cozy relationship that has developed between airlines and some federal regulators. A number of the important provisions from this bill were included in the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which passed the full Senate with broad bipartisan support in February 2011. I have also pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to issue much-needed updates to airline safety standards to combat pilot fatigue, and in December 2011 the FAA announced new final rules that create one level of safety for all passengers in our nation's aviation system.
  • Implementing a passenger bill of rights. I was a cosponsor of the Passenger Bill of Rights, which requires airlines to provide passengers with food, water, and adequate restrooms during a tarmac delay. The bill also set a limit of three hours for how long a plane can sit on the ground with passengers aboard. In response to this legislation, the Department of Transportation put in place rules in 2010 that limit tarmac delays to three hours. The new rules have lead to a dramatic decrease in tarmac delays - in the first year after the three hour rule went into effect, there were only 20 tarmac delays longer than three hours and none were longer than four hours, compared to over 500 delays of at least three hours in June through August of 2009.
  • Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. Along with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, which was signed into law in 2009. This new law protects consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and ensures the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors.
  • Reforming our nation's toxic chemicals policy. I am an original cosponsor of the Safe Chemicals Act that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses clear standards for developing new products.
  • Preventing carbon monoxide deaths. Known as the "silent killer," carbon monoxide poisoning results in the deaths of an estimated 500 Americans each year. I have been working to strengthen standards for carbon monoxide alarms and increase safeguards for portable gas-powered generators to prevent deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning. My work on this issue has been inspired in part by Cheryl Burt of Rochester, Minnesota, whose two young sons (ages 16 months and four years) died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning furnace in 1996.

Senator Klobuchar’s Offices

302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043

1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043

1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
Fax: 507-288-2922

121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Fax: 218-287-2930

Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690
Fax: 218-741-3692