The Godiva chocolate company puts “Belgium 1926” on many of its labels and promotional materials, referring to its origins nearly a century ago in Brussels. “Kevin Fahey, of Virginia, argued in a lawsuit filed in D.C. this week that Godiva commits ‘massive fraud’ by suggesting on product labeling and their website that their products are Belgian…. ‘It is important to emphasize that “Belgium 1926” signifies the place and year of the company’s founding. It does not imply that a product purchased today was made in Belgium nearly one hundred years ago,’ the company said in a statement.” A similar lawsuit was dismissed earlier in California. [Andrea Swalec, NBC Washington; Scott MacFarlane]
30-employee Woof ‘N’ Poof, which manufactures stuffed collector dolls and other novelty accessories in the northern California community of Chico for sale in Nordstrom and other stores, may soon call it quits [Debbie Cobb/KHSL via Richard Rider, Flash Report]:
[Owner Roger] Hart says a raise in minimum wage and workers compensation are just a couple of issues that have made it difficult to keep the business financially afloat here. Hart said, “The high cost of doing business in California coupled with ridiculous regulatory environment makes it virtually impossible to do business.” He says he has seen an 11% hike in payroll.
…A recent visit by an inspector with the Department of Consumer Affairs set the company back. The inspector from Sacramento cited him for having the wrong size font on the decorative pillow labels. He was told to take the labels out, or they would have his inventory seized. It was a costly fix.
Government is just another word for the things we do together, like threatening to seize pillow inventories with wrong-font labels.
Bloomberg-era nannying continues under Mayor Bill de Blasio: “The [New York City] Board of Health voted unanimously to require chain eateries to put salt-shaker emblems on menus to denote dishes with more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium.” [Associated Press] There are several problems with this, beginning with the coercion: it’s not the proper role of government to force itself on the marketplace as a diet and health adviser. The salt guidelines themselves, moreover, are so rigorous in their demands for salt restriction that only one in ten Americans currently succeeds in meeting them; while some persons (notably cardiac patients) can lower their risk by going on a salt-restricted diet, it seems to confer no benefit on many others and may even bring health risks of its own. Aside from breeding “warning fatigue” that encourages consumers to ignore increasingly complicated signage, the measure brings serious compliance costs, especially if restaurants try to introduce new offerings frequently or vary their offerings to reflect local or individual customer preferences. Finally, the de Blasio administration bypassed the City Council (which by design is answerable to the entire city, including consumer and business voters) in favor of going for an edict by the Board of Health. Mayor Bloomberg tried the same tactic with his soda ban, only to see it struck down by the courts.
- More Than You Wanted To Know: favorable review of new Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Schneider book on failure of mandatory disclosure regimes [George Leef, Cato Regulation, PDF, related earlier here and here]
- Colorful allegations: “Tampa lawyers can be questioned about DUI setup claims” [Tampa Bay Times]
- Intimidation the new norm: FCC head blockaded at his D.C. home to pressure him into OKing net regulation scheme [Washington Post; related, Sen. Mary Landrieu because of her support for Keystone pipeline; earlier here, here, here, here (Boehner, Wal-Mart, etc.), here (businesspeople), here (SEIU and bankers), here (Boston teamsters), here (Google), etc.]
- Speaking of net neutrality debate, Jack Shafer (“You can’t build a better Internet out of red tape”) and Richard Epstein;
- “FAA’s Slow Pace Grounds U.S. Drone Makers” [Friends of Chamber]
- OECD deal could smother tax shelter competition, which might be good for rulers, if not necessarily for the ruled [Alberto Mingardi]
- “$100/month Upper East Side tenant loses suit to raze high-rise neighbor” and the best bit comes in the last sentence [NY Daily News]
Last fall the editors of the Vermont Law Review were kind enough to invite me to participate in a discussion on food and product labeling, part of a day-long conference “The Disclosure Debates” with panels on environmental, financial, and campaign disclosure. Other panelists included Christine DeLorme of the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Advertising Practices; Brian Dunkiel, Dunkiel Saunders; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; and David Zuckerman, Vermont State Senator and Farmer, Full Moon Farm.
That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.
My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.
Are you sure there isn’t any identified fiber in there? [Lowering the Bar] It turns out to be a consequence of something called the Federal Textile Act.
Why there’s a “Keep out of the reach of children” label on a can of Glade. [WAFB Baton Rouge, Louisiana]