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 crime, unsafe products, and unscrupulous business practices.

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, whether they are toys or charm bracelets, seafood or pet food, or 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 recent 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 wireless and internet technologies into our lives has resulted in growing concerns over billing, privacy, and security.

There has also been a rise in major data breaches that have exposed the personal information of millions of consumers. The changing nature of technology and increased availability of data have created new opportunities for hackers to commit cyber-attacks and steal sensitive information from consumers, companies and the government. We need better methods for detecting breaches and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

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

  • Promoting Competition. Every day, consumers rely on competitive markets to keep prices low and the quality of goods and services high. As the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, I am working to ensure that consumers benefit from robust competition. Whether it’s scrutinizing mergers or calling out anticompetitive practices that result in high prices for prescription drugs, we need to make sure that our nation’s competition laws are being enforced for the benefit of consumers.

  • 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. On 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 years, we have seen outbreaks from contaminated pistachios, peanut butter, spinach, apples, peppers, and lettuce. These incidents have highlighted the need to reexamine our food safety laws and procedures to ensure we maintain a food supply with the highest-quality safety standards.

  • Reining in financial recklessness. In the past few decades, greed in the financial system 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.

  • Enhancing online privacy and going after cybercrimes and hacking. More and more Americans rely on the internet to shop, pay their bills, and connect with family and friends. At the same time, online sites and advertisers have become ever more sophisticated at tracking and gathering information about our online behavior, raising concerns that consumers’ privacy may not be properly protected, and cybersecurity breaches have affected businesses and consumers across the country. That’s why I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana to protect the privacy of consumers’ online data by ensuring that companies use plain language to explain to consumers how their data is being used, allowing consumers to opt out of certain data tracking and collection, and requiring companies to notify consumers of privacy violations within 72 hours of a breach. I have also worked to provide the Department of Defense and our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to strengthen our cybersecurity and have called on investigations of breaches to ensure we have the information we need to protect consumers from future breaches. After receiving alarming reports that our federal government websites were rendered unsecure during the 2019 government shutdown, I called on the Executive Branch to make sure that our federal government websites and online infrastructure remain secure in the event of a future shutdown or appropriations lapse. I will continue to advocate for measures that ensure consumer confidence in online privacy and security of information.

  • Protecting access to a free and open internet. The internet has become one of the great American success stories and net neutrality is the bedrock of a fair, fast and open internet. It holds large internet service providers accountable for providing the internet access consumer expect, while protecting innovation and competition. Repealing net neutrality protections could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and blocked websites. I am fighting to protect net neutrality so that everyone, including our small businesses and consumers in rural areas, has equal access to the internet.

  • Defending consumer rights in the cell phone marketplace. Today, cell phones are an integral part of the way we communicate – and for many people, the only phones or computing devices they own. Consumers often feel that 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, to cell phone unlocking restrictions. 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. Additionally, we need to ensure that wireless companies are also looking out for consumer safety, including addressing the rising trends in cell phone theft often accompanied by violence.

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), which gives the Consumer Product Safety Commission the additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I wrote:
    • The first bans lead in children's products. Believe it or not, until the law was enacted there had 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 products in their homes have 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 from 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 law overhauls the nation’s food safety system and strengthens 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 former 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.
  • Protecting consumers from toxic substances.
    • Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. I was a cosponsor of the Senate bill that was signed into law in June of 2016 that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act. This Act constituted the first major update to our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals since its passage in 1976. I continue to support reforms that will keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses clear standards for developing new products.  

    • 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 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. I continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency to fully implement this law and hold importers accountable and keep our families safe.


    • 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. I continue to work on legislation to incentivize consumer education and investment in carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Protecting children from unsafe products.  
    • IKEA recall. In February 2016, Ted McGee, a 22-month old from Apple Valley, Minnesota, was killed by a falling IKEA Malm dresser. That same model dresser had previously killed or injured other children after tipping over, but IKEA was still selling the dressers and there was little information available about the danger. I urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and IKEA to take strong and definitive action to prevent future injuries and deaths from tip-overs of the Malm dresser. CPSC and IKEA later announced the largest furniture recall in U.S. history, agreed to stop sales of the dresser, and offered a full refund to consumers who had purchased Malm dressers. Following reports of the eighth death from a Malm tip-over in 2017, I renewed calls to the CPSC and IKEA to take action to protect children from dangerous furniture, and in November 2017, CPSC and IKEA relaunched the dresser recall.

    • Window blinds. According to data from the CPSC, nearly every month a child dies after becoming tangled in an exposed window cord. I pushed the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) to take advantage of new technologies and implement the strongest possible child safety protections. In June 2016, WCMA announced that it would update the voluntary safety standard for window coverings to eliminate exposed cords from virtually all window coverings and improve safety for children.

  • Protecting seniors from fraud. I iI introduced the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act with Republican Senator Susan Collins. This bill provides much needed protection to seniors from fraud schemes through consumer education and by establishing an effective complaint system that ensures complaints of fraud are quickly forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to coordinate with other agencies to monitor the market for fraud schemes targeting seniors and also requires the FTC to distribute informational materials to seniors, their families, and their caregivers that explains the process for contacting law enforcement authorities in the event that a senior is targeted in a fraud scheme. The bill has passed the Senate and I’m working to get it passed in the House and signed into law. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’ll continue to make sure seniors are protected from scams.

  • 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 contained a number of provisions designed to protect consumers and restore transparency. Those measures included 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 created the 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.
  • Protecting consumers from monopolies and high prices. 
    • Pharmaceutical Companies. Competition guarantees that consumers pay fair prices and improves quality. When companies do not play by the rules, consumers pay the price. With Senator Chuck Grassley, I have called on the Federal Trade Commission to stop anticompetitive actions in the pharmaceutical industry that raise prescription drug costs. Together, we have introduced legislation to help end the practice of brand-name drug manufacturers paying off their less-expensive generic competitors to stay out of the market and to end tactics some brand name companies use to prevent generic companies from being able to receive approval for their products and compete in the marketplace. These bills would save consumers and the government billions of dollars.
    • Preventing harmful consolidation. Consolidation within an industry can eliminate competition and increase prices for consumers. That is why I have worked to prevent mergers that harm consumers. I have chaired hearings examining consolidation in industries from airlines to cable services, including both AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV and Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. After Senator Mike Lee and I asked the Department of Justice to carefully review Charter Communication’s acquisition of Time-Warner, the Department of Justice required conditions to protect consumers’ ability to choose to receive video content over the internet. After Senator Lee and I raised serious concerns that Canadian Pacific’s proposed acquisition of Norfolk Southern could harm small shippers, Canadian Pacific abandoned the transaction. I also successfully advocated for the Department of Justice to protect small, craft brewers as part of its review of Anheuser- Busch’s acquisition of SABMiller. Antitrust laws serve as the first line of defense against anti-consumer and anticompetitive mergers and transactions. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission enforce those laws, but they need the tools to meet today’s challenges. That’s why I introduced two bills, the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act and the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act, which would modernize antitrust enforcement by adjusting merger filing fees to reflect the 21st century economy, requiring the parties of the largest and most suspect mergers to show that the proposed deal would not be anticompetitive, and improving the agencies’ ability to assess whether merger settlements are effective.
  • Internet and telecommunications consumer protections.
    • Ensuring equal access to the internet. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted strong Net Neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, allowing people to share and access the internet without interference. These protections are critical to ensuring our small businesses and entrepreneurs have equal access so that they can set up their businesses and compete online, and consumers have equal access regardless of where they live. Despite the millions of comments from the American people asking the FCC to protect an open and fair internet, the FCC voted in December of 2017 to end net neutrality. This means that internet service providers could block, slow and prioritize traffic. I have been fighting to protect these rules and have joined legislation to reinstate them. 

    • Protecting wireless consumers. II introduced the Wireless Consumer Choice Act to require carriers to unlock mobile devices for consumers so that they can switch networks and carriers if they choose and take their device with them. I also introduced the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act to help cell phone customers make informed choices about wireless service that best fits their budget. This includes requiring cell phone companies to prorate early termination fees so that consumers have greater freedom to change companies. I’ve pushed the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, and have cosponsored legislation to crack down on deceptive billing practices, such as “cramming,” in both landline and wireless bills. I also introduced the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which would require the wireless industry to move forward with installing “kill switch” technology on all smartphones that will protect consumer data on the phone and allow consumers to render the device inoperable if the phone is stolen. In response to this bill, many wireless carriers and manufacturers have made kill switch technology available.
       
    • Improving Rural Service. To combat persistent phone call completion problems in rural areas I introduced the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act. This bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls to help ensure businesses, families, and emergency responders can count on phone calls being completed. This bill was signed into law in 2018. 

    • Stopping online fraud. Online booking sites have created a marketplace where consumers can shop for hotels across thousands of brands on a single platform.  While online travel agencies serve an important role in promoting consumer choice and competition for hotel and airline bookings, the rise of online booking has brought with it an increase in online booking scams. For example, some fraudulent websites give the appearance of being connected to a hotel, but actually have no relationship with them. Transactions on these sites can result in unnecessarily complicated travel itineraries, incorrect travel information and hidden fees. That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Stop Online Booking Scams Act.This bill would protect consumers from illegitimate third party websites that trick consumers into thinking they are making reservations directly with hotels. I also worked to include an amendment in the Senate-passed Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 that would require increased disclosures from online travel agencies. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights I will continue to be a leader in the fight to protect consumers from deceptive practices by fraudulent online travel booking websites.
       
    • Ticket fraud. While the event ticket marketplace has grown more sophisticated through the use of secure online distribution channels and ticket technology, many ticket buyers can still be victims of fraud. That’s why I co-sponsored the bipartisan Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which was signed into law in December 2016. The law prohibits the use of ticket bots and other online measures in order to deliberately circumvent security protocols that limit or restrict online ticket purchases.  As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee I will continue to be a leader in protecting consumers from ticket bots.

    • Inappropriate content. I introduced the PROTECT Our Children Act with a bipartisan group of Senators to reauthorize the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, a national network of coordinated task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that combat technology-facilitated child exploitation across the country. That legislation was signed into law in November 2017. I also cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act which was passed into law to help parents protect their children from inappropriate website content. It requires the Federal Trade Commission to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the internet by children and directs the U.S. Commerce Department to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. In addition, I support V-Chip, internet filters, and other new technologies that give parents greater control over what their kids see on television and what they can do on the internet. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against online predators.
  • Transportation consumer protections.
    • Improving vehicle safety. Vehicle safety recalls involving General Motors (GM) and the Takata Corporation have weakened the American public’s trust in the safety of vehicles. We must ensure that vehicle safety defect complaints from consumers are thoroughly investigated and that recalls are issued promptly and widely when necessary. Americans deserve to be informed immediately when a vehicle safety defect is discovered. That is why I cosponsored the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which would encourage employees from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information about safety defects to the United States Department of Transportation so that defects can be identified sooner and lives can be saved. We have a responsibility to protect public safety, and to do that we must restore the public’s trust in automakers and their suppliers.

    • Protecting automobile consumers from fraud. Volkswagen willfully deceived regulators and the general public to artificially lower emissions of its 2009-2015 Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles. Volkswagen installed a “defeat device” on nearly 500,000 of these vehicles that hid levels of nitrogen oxides as high as 40 times that of allowable U.S. emissions standards. Volkswagen’s misrepresentations, which harmed public health, polluted our air, and deceived American consumers, demanded a quick response. First, I urged the company to issue a recall that was comprehensive and covered all affected models and years, execute a robust public awareness campaign, and develop a process through which customers could be compensated for the costs of reduced fuel economy and lower resale values. Second, I took to the Senate floor to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to explain why its emission standards approval process did not detect this deceptive software. After my call to action, the EPA announced changes to its diesel emissions testing process to make them more foolproof. Third, along with Senator Blumenthal, I sent a letter to the Department of Justice calling on it to hold Volkswagen responsible for its dishonest conduct. Volkswagen ultimately paid $14.7 billion to compensate consumers and to address the pollution caused by its vehicles.

    • Protecting drivers’ privacy. I authored the Driver Privacy Act in 2014 and 2015 along with Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota to make clear that the owner of the vehicle is the rightful owner of the data collected by a vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR). An EDR temporarily stores data from the vehicle’s safety systems following a crash. While EDRs provide important data that can be used to better protect passengers, we need to ensure consumers’ privacy is being protected. The Driver Privacy Act was included in the long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that was passed into law in December 2015.

    • Strengthening aviation safety standards. I introduced the bipartisan Aviation Safety Enhancement Act to toughen airline safety rules and to 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 Modernization and Reform Act, which was signed into law in February 2012. I have also pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to issue much-needed updates to airline safety standards to combat pilot fatigue. Updated standards went into effect in January 2014 for passenger pilots and I’m pushing to ensure the same standards are put in place for cargo pilots as well. 

    • 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. This bill was signed into law as a part of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act. The law 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 led 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. In October 2016, the Department of Transportation announced actions to protect air travelers and promote airline competition. These new actions build on previous efforts like the Passenger Bill of Rights and will help ensure that consumers have access to more accurate information so they can make informed decisions when choosing a flight. They also expand other consumer protections, including passenger refunds for delayed baggage. After a passenger was forcibly removed from a domestic flight in 2017, I called for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to examine the current airline passenger protections and needed improvements.