Actual Consumer Protection

Why don’t your Christmas lights set the house on fire? Hint: it’s not because of Congress (rather, it seems to be in spite of Congress):

Every product they test is at the request, and the expense, of its manufacturer, who seeks out UL not because it has to – no federal law mandates safety tests for most items – but because it’s cheaper and easier than a product-injury lawsuit, Drengenberg says. In fact, most retailers won’t stock a product if it hasn’t been safety tested. But it’s all voluntary, a tidy case study of the free market at its best: bottom-line drivers of consumer good.

UL “test[s] and approve[s] almost everything sold in America…with a few exceptions: cars, cosmetics, and food, for example.”
Thanks to Adam Wilson for the link and for pointing out, “If only UL could also inspect food…”

UPDATE: A reader points out that UL is not necessarily a bastion of the free-market, and I agree. My point is that there are solutions to things such as consumer safety that do not require government agencies and mandates.


10:43 am on December 20, 2008