An average consumer believes that the legal system will protect him or her if a suit needs to be filed against a company for wrongdoing. Consumer rights and the ability of an individual to enter into a class action is one that seems almost inherent in our world today with these suits popping up all the time, calling companies out on shady practices. Businesses, put simply, should do the right thing. The products and services a consumer receives should be up to par. And, when there are mishaps, they should be held accountable. Consumers believe they deserve to take action in these instances. However, a proposal going to Senate on Monday could change all that, according to The Consumers Council of Missouri.
The Consumers Council is concerned specifically with the Senate Bill 5 proposal, sponsored by Republican and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, which they believe would weaken the state’s Merchandising Practices and limit consumer rights. The group says it restricts the right of disgruntled civilians to sue and limits measures that currently can be taken in class action cases. Spokesperson Cara Spencer states Senate Bill 5 will inevitably drive down business liability lawsuits. And, in doing so, we’ll see a rise in deceptive business practices. After all, if there are no ramifications for engaging in such practices, what’s to stop businesses from cutting corners to save a buck, or from swindling customers out of their pocket change? The companies who continue to employ ethical practices will be undermined. There will essentially be no incentive to do the right thing.
Bill 5 is one of many bills currently being proposed by the GOP that are designed to limit the rights of consumers to pursue class action suits. There has recently been an influx in similar legislation. If the pace continues, civilians who feel shafted will have their hands tied.
The Consumers Council is warning that the proposal would limit the ability for civilians to fight back even in important, potentially life-altering circumstances, such as improper vehicle repossession or unwarranted home foreclosure. We’ll see an increase in falsified credit reporting and likely a spike in handing out shady pay day loans. Spencer says there are already limited regulations in place in the state of Missouri, with almost laughable measures to control pay day lending. Studies have shown that 11 percent of Missouri residents are already taken advantage of in these deals. Passing Senate Bill 5 will mean an inevitable increase in this number.
The consumer rights group has historically relied on the efforts of former Democratic head of state Jay Nixon to veto such legislative measures. Nixon took care to ensure many of these measures did not make it to the bank. However, with the state’s new governor, Eric Greitens, in office, things are only expected to get worse. Much to Spencer and her fellow Council members’ chagrin, Greitens has made loosening business regulations one of his top priorities. The governor and his supporters contend that needless class action lawsuits are weighing down businesses. Spencer counters that this number is at best less than 100 per year, while shady businesses are filing 1000 of cases in the state every year.