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witness first-hand, the concern of the judges and juries for their individual rights, is a plus in the governmental scheme.
Senator Moss. As you are probably aware, there is a class action remedy bill that is presently being considered here. I just wanted to get your reactions to the general feeling of class action as an appropriate remedy for consumers.
Mr. ELKIND. On the general question, Senator, we have considered this, deliberated over this problem of whether to take a position and it was our feeling we should confine ourselves to the area of our specialty and that our views expressed at this time would be redundant in view of the discussion that has been going on currently.
So I cannot give you a Commission position on that question.
Senator Moss. Well, thank you. Let me again commend you, Mr. Chairman, and all of the members of the Commission and your staff for a very excellent job.
I think this has certainly been a tremendous contribution in this field of consumer protection and consumer safety. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator BAKER. Mr. Chairman, I will reserve my questions until later. I assume we will have other hearings on this subject?
The CHAIRMAN. Oh, yes. Senator BAKER. It was only this morning of course that I had a copy of the report. I read in this morning's Washington Post that the bill which is appended to it has been introduced by the chairman, I believe, and I have not seen a copy of it.
The CHAIRMAN. For the record, it hasn't actually been introduced, but it will be within a couple of hours. We have it all ready, but last night we had a little problem on the floor.
Senator BAKER. Yes. But I haven't seen the bill and as far as I know none of us have had a chance to examine it. Since I read in the paper it had been introduced, I resolved that I would wait until I got a chance to read it before I went further into this testimony.
I am delighted to see the committee's chief counsel here as a part of this Commission. I assume he had some part in writing the bill, and we will have a chance to discuss it later.
. Senator Cotton. I am sure all of us are going to be wrestling with this proposal. There have been many necessary fields of activity, however, that we have started out on with flags flying and great ambition. Yet, when it gets into operation-whatever law is passed and the time for enforcement comes, we have to tighten up so much on personnel that it loses its effect.
I think that is going to loom up in this case. You have done a magnificent job and we must carry on. But we still have this problem.
Now I gather from your very fine statement and from a hasty look at the report that these hazardous products fall into two categories. One is the category of appliances and the other includes things like floor waxes and other like products. Is that a fair statement !
Mr. ELKIND. They fall into more categories than that, Senator Cotton. We treated the categories in terms of their characteristics as far
as causing injury is concerned, whether it would burn or explode or whether it was poisonous if ingested. That is the way we did it.
Senator Cotton. I understood that. But I am simply using the example of floor wax as covering many products.
I just want to throw a parting shot to you concerning the problem and the expense of enforcement. For example, when a new drug is put out, the Food and Drug Administration of course doesn't let it go on the market until it investigates to see if there are side effects and so on. They have to come to the Food and Drug Administration, show them the product, show them the analysis, and satisfy them in order to get a license or permission to put it on the market.
That system couldn't possibly be followed with a multitude of products. But when you come to electrical and mechanical appliances, such as lawnmowers and others that possibly are hazardous, would it not save a lot of expense and have a great preventive effect if that class of products had to come to the Commission rather than be put on the market and later have the Commission investigate and pursue and find out what is hazardous and what isn't? That would narrow the initiative of the Commission to all of these other substances.
I am trying to think of some way so that we don't start out with a great project here and then let it fall by the wayside by not sufficiently enforcing it.
Mr. ELKIND. Well, we rejected premarketing clearance of a broad range of products because of the expense; it is just too costly. We believe that the legislation is broad enough and flexible enough to permit a very simple process whereby the Commission identifies a hazard, and having identified the hazard, it can say, “Well, this is the kind of product where the best control would be a certification program.” That would mean that the manufacturer would be required to have an independent laboratory certify that the product complies with standards.
Now if the standards that exist in the marketplace are adequate, they wouldn't even necessarily have to be Federal standards, products could be certified just to existing voluntary standards. If a standard were inadequate, then we would challenge the manufacturers to come forward within a given time with a standard. And if they don't do the job, then the Commission would step in and set the performance standard for them, and then insist on the certification to that performance standard.
The only area where we have considered shifting the burden of starting things off to the manufacturing community is in the area of new and innovative products. There we have tried to be very careful not to discourage ingenuity and progress.
This was the problem that the Commission faced in this area. So we came up with a compromise. We have asked that the Commission have authority to promulgate standards and procedures for the purpose of insuring that new consumer products are adequately designed and tested.
So what we have done really is pass the buck to the Commission and say, 'Well, you tackle this problem as the situation exists."
Senator Cotton. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Did the Commission make any recommendations that if this Commission was appointed where it should be located physically?
Mr. ELKIND. We hadn't considered that question at all.
The CHAIRMAN. It is just the Chair's personal opinion that it ought to be out of town, so they would be more independent. That is my personal viewpoint on it. Not Seattle, but someplace else. I don't want to be where they are located, because I would have to be there personally every day.
Well, I think you looked at this matter of making it reasonable and practical for the manufacturers to have, not necessarily shortcuts, but an easy way to get their products in front of this Commission. And this is what you have to do. There will be a great number of them, I imagine, before they ever put a products on the market who will come down and say, “Look, this is all right? If it is not, how should we change it?” This is the way the Federal Trade Commission should work and it does in many cases.
So that the manufacturer wouldn't be tied up with a lot of redtape and as you point out we wouldn't deny new products or competition or profits; we don't intend to do that.
It seems to me that every manufacturer of products that you take a look at, will read this report very carefully and do a lot of things way ahead of the promulgation of standards or the legislation itself.
So you have promoted safety in household products I am sure, already. There are many things that manufacturers can do that wouldn't cost much more sometimes wouldn't cost as much.
So, unless there are further questions, we thank you very much and we will all join in saying it was a job well done.
Mr. Elkind. Thank you very much.
Dr. Hill. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to make one statement in terms of a recommendation.
I come from Massachusetts, and we have a beautiful building in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., which is empty and it used to have a radiation laboratory in it. If you would like a place to put the Commission, we have it and one of the best technological institutes in the world is right there ready to go to work. The CHAIRMAN. Well, you confer with your Senators about that.
(Thereupon, at 11:20 a.m., the hearing was adjourned, to reconvene upon the call of the Chair.)