(HARRISBURG) — The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee held a public hearing today in Harrisburg to seek input on the privatization of weights and measures enforcement and how it will affect consumers and businesses, according to the Committee Chair Senator Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson (R-Bucks).
“This is a major consumer-protection issue that affects every Pennsylvanian – from ensuring that they are charged fairly for the gas they pump and the home heating deliveries the receive to determining if scales are balanced at supermarkets,” Tomlinson said. “Strong enforcement is needed to make sure that businesses are operating fairly and openly when providing their products and services.”
According to Tomlinson, weights and measures inspection and enforcement is currently performed by either the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture or the individual county. But a new program established by the Department would allow for a private certification program where a third party could perform inspections or the actual business could inspect itself.
“We wanted to hear more information from Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding about this program and how it will be implemented,” Tomlinson said. “We also got a great deal of good input from consumer advocates who have some legitimate concerns about this “self-policing” provision. That information will help us to determine if the new system is effective and responsive to consumer needs.”
Tomlinson pointed to several government reports that have been critical of the Department’s current program and fears that the same inadequacies will be mirrored in the new program. While the Secretary reassured the committee that a proper program is being put in place, consumer groups who testified said they are still wary about conflicts of interest and ensuring that consumers are protected and well educated on the issue.
“These are legitimate concerns about businesses regulating themselves, and ones we must address as the Commonwealth allows for private inspections,” Tomlinson said. “Our first concern is for the consumers and will they really be protected under this new program. We need to continue to work with the Department to ensure this.”